There are some very controversial things occurring in the world of medicine right now, and one of the most controversial, at the moment, concerns the remarkable advancements being made in the world of transplants. Not long ago, we researched a story regarding the successful transplant of lab-grown human vaginas into four teenage girls, who are now adults. Now, news is emerging that the world’s first attempt to transplant a whole human head is on the agenda, and will be discussed this year at a surgical conference held by the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons in June. Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero, from the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group in Italy, believes that surgeons will be able to transplant the head of one patient onto a completely different body by 2017. He detailed how the procedure would go and what it would look like in a recent publication. (source)
“When the recipient wakes up," Canavero predicts, "they would be able to move and feel their face and would speak with the same voice. Physiotherapy would enable the person to walk within a year. Several people have already volunteered to get a new body.”
Dr. Canavero isn’t the first one to ponder these ideas. Xiao-Ping Ren of Harbin Medical University in China successfully performed a basic head transplant on a mouse (CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics, doi.org/2d5). Ren and his team of researchers actually successfully managed to transplant the heads of 18 mice. After the transplant, all of the heads had normal brain functioning, they were able to blink and move their whiskers. Unfortunately, they were all paralyzed from the neck down and only survived for about three hours.
As a quick side note to plug into this article, while organizations and scientists still participate in animal testing, the number that refuse to do so continues to increase. Other options are widely available, and at this point, given the fact that those options can be utilized, it’s ridiculous that animal testing has not been banned all over the world.
In 1970, neurosurgeon Robert White successfully transplanted the head from one monkey onto the body of another. The monkey could still hear, see, smell, and taste because blood was successfully circulating to the brain, but it was also paralyzed and the immune system eventually rejected the foreign head and the monkey died.
As you can see, it’s hard to imagine a surgery taking place on humans when there has been little success so far. Apparently, the trick is to get the spinal cords to fuse, and the fact that the body automatically rejects any new tissue makes this incredibly difficult. Sure, there might be ways around it, but we seem far from discovering it.
Medical Ethics also comes into play.
“Another hurdle will be finding a country to approve such a transplant." Canavero would like to do the experiment in the US, but believes it might be easier to get approval somewhere in Europe. "The real stumbling block is the ethics," he says. "Should this surgery be done at all? There are obviously going to be many people who disagree with it.”
What About The Brain? Would It Be The Same Person Coming Out Of The Operation As The One Who Went In?
Readers are asking one question over and over, 'Would the person be the same?' Does our “identity” or “individuality” go beyond the body and the brain? Would the person be different? Would the person have the same memories but also carry some kind of mental shadows or imprints from the person donating the body.? Would they feel the same? I know they would keep their own brain, but having the body of a completely different person would have to feel creepy and very peculiar, at the very least.
After all, studies have shown that our heartbeat and other factors and other inputs from our body can influence our emotions, our will, and and our language. But that’s a topic for another article.
There are so many questions here that go beyond medicine, and into ethics, religion, philosophy all the way to the consciousness and sub consciousness of the donor and recipient. We will never truly understand until a successful procedure has taken place.