Category: head transplant

Head Transplant Doctor Reports Successful Repair of Spinal Cord in Rats

Head Transplants?

Sergio Canavero, a man who has made the goal of his life’s work to transplant a human head onto a donor body, is claiming a success. He and his team have reported seemingly positive results from a technique called the Gemini Protocol. They used the protocol to repair severed spinal cords in rats, and their findings indicate that their methodology works “across the board.”

The researchers severed the spinal cords of 15 rats. Nine then received the actual Gemini Protocol, while the remaining six served as controls.

After the team severed the spinal cords, they applied adrenaline and a cooled saline to reduce bleeding. The rats treated with the experimental process received a polyethylene glycol (PEG) substance Canavero simply refers to as “glue,” which he says repairs and seals nerve cells in damaged spinal cords. The wounds were closed and the rats received antibiotics for three days.

Image Credit: Ren et al/CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics/Wiley
Image Credit: Ren et al/CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics/Wiley

Fourteen of the 15 rats survived for a month following the operation. According to the researchers, the experimental rats treated with PEG mixture recovered motor function “steadily” and were about to walk again by day 28. In fact, two of them were “basically normal” by that time.

However, most in the scientific community — joined by most in the gaming community for totally different reasons — are as highly skeptical about these alleged outcomes as they have been all along.

Questionable Results

Scientists are doubtful for several reasons. First, the team didn’t describe their methods well enough for other researchers to be sure about them. Case Western Reserve University Professor of Neurosciences Jerry Silver said in an interview with Newsweek that it’s not clear whether they severed only the dorsal spinal chord or the entire spinal chord.

“[This is] unbelievable. Too good to be true in my opinion, which mandates that these results will have be independently verified.” -Jerry Silver

He also points out an overall lack of evidence: “they show no evidence for regeneration. There is no histology [the microscopic study of tissue structure], which is the only way to assess what is really going on here,” Silver added.

Moreover, the characterization and scoring of motor function in the experimental rats is, according to Silver, unrealistic. The study reported that two of the treated animals recovered nearly normal locomotor skills (scoring of 19 and 20 points out of a possible 21 total) and that the treated rats had average a score of 12, which means that, on average, they could take multiple weight-bearing steps.

“[This is] unbelievable,” Silver said in the interview. “Too good to be true in my opinion, which mandates that these results will have be independently verified and properly analyzed before this work can be accepted as scientifically valid.”

Gamers are also skeptical because this appears to many to be a viral marketing scheme for Metal Gear Solid. The game’s creator and Canavero both deny this.

The team is now moving on to experimentation on dogs — apparently horrifying many potential consumers is not a concern for them. They hope this next stage will provide indisputable proof that the technique works “across the board.” The first human head transplant remains scheduled in December of this year; the patient will be a Chinese national.

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Cryogenically Frozen Brains Will Be ‘Woken up’ and Transplanted in Donor Bodies Within Three Years, Neurosurgeon Claims

One World’s First After Another

Given the remarkable advances that have been made in medicine in recent years, it’s hard to believe anything is still truly impossible. Artificial intelligences are diagnosing diseases, real-life cyborgs walk among us, and we’re finding promising new clues on our quest for immortality. Even more remarkable breakthroughs are on the way,  but if any one research team truly faces seemingly insurmountable odds, it has to be that of Professor Sergio Canavero, Director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group.

An Exponential Timeline of Organ Transplants
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Four years ago, the acclaimed neurosurgeon announced his plan to complete the world’s first human head transplant, and this week, in an interview with OOOM, he confirmed that the controversial operation will take place within the next 10 months. According to Canavero, the operation will occur in Harbin, China, with Xiaoping Ren of Harbin Medical University leading the surgical team, and contrary to previous reports, a Chinese citizen, not Russian Valery Spiridonov, will be the recipient of a donor body.

However, the most remarkable news to come out of Canavero’s interview doesn’t have anything to do with the head transplant at all, but what he plans to do afterwards: “As soon as the first human head transplant has taken place, i.e., no later than in 2018, we will be able to attempt to reawaken the first frozen head.”

Life After Death?

Canavero plans to remove the brain from a head that has been frozen at -196 degrees Celsius (-320 degrees Fahrenheit) and submerged in liquid nitrogen. He’ll then place the brain in a donor body in an attempt to effectively bring the patient back from the dead and, in the process, clear up humanity’s questions about the afterlife.

“If we bring this person back to life, we will receive the first real account of what actually happens after death,” said Canavero. “The head transplant gives us the first insight into whether there is an afterlife, a heaven, a hereafter, or whatever you may want to call it or whether death is simply a flicking off of the light switch and that’s it.”

Clearly, this is the stuff of science fiction, and the medical community — and society at large — has every reason to be very skeptical of its potential for success.

“The advocates of cryogenics are unable to cite any study in which a whole mammalian brain … has been resuscitated after storage in liquid nitrogen,” Clive Coen, Professor of Neuroscience at King’s College London, told The Telegraph, adding, “Irreversible damage is caused during the process of taking the mammalian brain into sub-zero temperatures.”

Even if it did work and the frozen brain did “wake up,” there’s no telling what kinds of complications the patient could experience, from decreased mental faculties to unimaginable mental trauma. Though we do now live in a world in which the seemingly impossible is becoming possible, some experiments might be better suited for works of sci-fi than modern hospitals.

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Scientists Transplanted A Rat’s Head Onto Another Rat, Hoping to Replicate It in Humans

No Brain-Damaging Blood Loss

Okay, so it’s not every day you hear about a real life head transplant, but there is such a thing. In fact, research into transplanting heads has been around for a while now, with the first known two-headed animal experiments dating as far back as the 1900s and the 1950s.

Now, scientists from China have made a remarkable breakthrough in transplanting the head of one organism onto that of another.

For their work, they took the head of a smaller rat and attached it to a bigger one, creating what is effectively a two-headed rat. It is important to note that the rat did not survive long-term, but that was never the goal. The team knew the rat would not live long, as there are still a lot of technical and scientific issues that need to be resolved before we can successfully perform head transplants on living organisms and have them survive.

It also provides the possibility of long-term survival.

However, this is an astonishing step forward in performing viable head transplants in that the doctors were able to avoid any brain-damaging blood loss while the donor’s head was being attached.

The goal of this particular experiment was simple: the scientists wanted to know if they could successfully transplant a head without damaging the brain due to excessive blood loss. And they did. To do this, they had to keep the blood circulation going during the transplant by attaching the donor rat’s blood vessels to the other rat.

“We developed a bicephalic model of head transplantation to study these aspects,” the scientists report in the paper that they published in the journal CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics.

A Real Head Turner

While the idea is a real head turner — and maybe a head shaker, for some — scientists assert that head transplants are worth exploring, as it could help millions of people worldwide who are suffering from muscle or nerve problems. It could also allow us to take the head of a person suffering from fatal cancer and transplant it onto a healthy human body.

Understandably, there are a number of issues that have to be resolved before it would be possible to transplant human heads. For example, apart from making sure the brain isn’t damaged by blood loss during the transplant process, there are a number of other concerns, such as rejection by the immune system.

Image credit: CNS
Image credit: CNS

Still, grafting a head onto another while keeping the brain safe from the damage associated with blood loss is certainly a positive step forward as far as developing a viable means of conducting human head transplants.

However, some experts assert that the problems associated with transplanting human heads extend beyond scientific and technical concerns and touch upon the fundamental nature of human psychology.

Arthur Caplan, founding director of NYULMC’s Division of Medical Ethics, previously told Futurism that, in such a procedure, a person could suffer from unprecedented levels of insanity. He ultimately stated that this would likely result from things such as “novel chemistry flooding the brain, unfamiliar input coming in from the nervous system of the body, etc.”

While some claim to have already successfully performed the procedure, there’s no clear evidence to support such claims.

In any case, if we are to ever successfully complete such a procedure in the future, this most recent study provides an important piece of the puzzle. As the researchers note in their abstract, “The application of vascular grafting can also provide the possibility of long-term survival of the model.”

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