Still Not Happy With Your Botox? Try A Head Transplant!
Liver transplant? Check.
Heart transplant? Check.
Kidney Transplant? Check.
Head transpla – what?
As absurd it might sound, this concept has actually been experimented with before. But not on humans. Russian transplant pioneer, Vladimir Demikhov, had managed to successfully transplant dogs’ heads onto the bodies of other dogs in 1950, creating living two-headed dogs (WARNING: video contains content that may be disturbing for some viewers). Doctor Robert White, then transplanted the head of one monkey on to the body of another, two decades later.
These two successful head transplants unleashed possibilities and researches into this field for humans, even though the animals did not survive very long due to immuno-rejection.
Nevertheless, Surgeon Sergio Canavero, Director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group in Italy, never backed off despite the risks involved in this venture. He proposed an attempt at human head transplant in 2013, saying he had developed a technique that dealt with the problems faced by Demikhov and White.
White’s monkey case has been examined illimitable times, as it shows what goes wrong and can go wrong if particular procedures are not completed. In this case, the spinal cord of the transplanted head was not joined to the host body, which led to the monkey being paralyzed from neck down and even required artificial assistance in order to breathe.
Of course, sending a human in such a state is deadly for both the new-headed person and the experimenter. That is why experiments have remained mum since that time. Still, Dr Canavero believes that our knowledge of surgical techniques and human body mechanism has advanced manifold. “I think we are now at a point when the technical aspects are all feasible,” he told New Scientist.
Scientists have now figured out the key steps to carry out the head transplant:
- Both the head to transplant and the host body are cooled so cell death can be slowed down.
- Necks are cut, and major blood vessels linked with tubes.
- The spinal cords are severed.
- Cords are flushed with polyethylene glycol for hours, to mesh the fat in membranes.
- The blood vessels, skin and membranes of the host are then surgically sutured.
- Host is put into a coma for weeks to prevent mobility, while electrodes will be injected to simulate new nerve synapses.
- In case of rejection from the body, the body is injected with anti-rejection drugs.
- If successful, the patient will be able to walk within an year, with physiotherapy.
Apart from the painful procedure, there are a lot of ethical reservations which will have to be looked after. Moreover, donor bodies will also be in quite a short supply. That is why the idea was leaked to the public two years ago, so that people could get to accept the fact that severed necks could be revived again. (Hopeful for Ned Stark, anyone?)