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posted by n1 on Friday February 27 2015, @10:04AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the what-will-they-transplant-next dept.

Michelle Star writes at C/net that Surgeon Sergio Canavero, director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group in Italy, believes he has developed a technique to remove the head from a non-functioning body and transplant it onto the healthy body. According to Canavero's paper published in Surgical Neurology International, first, both the transplant head and the donor body need to be cooled in order to slow cell death. Then, the neck of both would be cut and the major blood vessels linked with tubes. Finally, the spinal cords would be severed, with as clean a cut as possible. Joining the spinal cords, with the tightly packed nerves inside, is key. The plan involves flushing the area with polyethylene glycol, followed by several hours of injections of the same, a chemical that encourages the fat in cell membranes to mesh. The blood vessels, muscles and skin would then be sutured and the patient would be induced into a coma for several weeks to keep them from moving around; meanwhile, electrodes would stimulate the spine with electricity in an attempt to strengthen the new nerve connections.

Head transplants have been tried before. In 1970, Robert White led a team at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, US, that tried to transplant the head of one monkey on to the body of another. The surgeons stopped short of a full spinal cord transfer, so the monkey could not move its body. Despite Canavero’s enthusiasm, many surgeons and neuroscientists believe massive technical hurdles push full body transplants into the distant future. The starkest problem is that no one knows how to reconnect spinal nerves and make them work again. “This is such an overwhelming project, the possibility of it happening is very unlikely,” says Harry Goldsmith.

AnonTechie writes:

This experimental study has confirmed a method to avoid cerebral ischemia during the surgery and solved an important part of the problem of how to accomplish long-term survival after transplantation and preservation of the donor brain stem.

http://gizmodo.com/the-crazy-science-behind-a-proposed-human-head-transpla-1688014257

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/06/head-transplant-italian-neuroscientist_n_3533391.html

[Abstract]: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cns.12341/abstract

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In a step that could change the definition of death, researchers have restored circulation to the brains of decapitated pigs and kept the reanimated organs alive for as long as 36 hours.

The feat offers scientists a new way to study intact brains in the lab in stunning detail. But it also inaugurates a bizarre new possibility in life extension, should human brains ever be kept on life support outside the body.

The work was described on March 28 at a meeting held at the National Institutes of Health to investigate ethical issues arising as US neuroscience centers explore the limits of brain science.

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It's possible that the level of function could be increased, and the brains could be kept alive indefinitely:

Sestan now says the organs produce a flat brain wave equivalent to a comatose state, although the tissue itself "looks surprisingly great" and, once it's dissected, the cells produce normal-seeming patterns.

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However, it could also be due to chemicals the Yale team added to the blood replacement to prevent swelling, which also severely dampen the activity of neurons. "You have to understand that we have so many channel blockers in our solution," Sestan told the NIH. "This is probably the explanation why we don't get [any] signal."

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Next step: hooking it up to a computer?

Related: First Human Head Transplant Could Happen in Two Years
Complete Head Transplant or Complete Publicity Stunt
Claims That Head Transplant Has Been Successfully Done on a Monkey
How Would You Define "A Successful Human Head Transplant"?


Original Submission

Complete Head Transplant or Complete Publicity Stunt 20 comments

The businessinsider.com article seems to best line out the many clues and linkings that this may be the case, not the least of which seems to be that the image of Dr. Canavero is used as the neurosurgeon in the game. Also possibly telling, the article states:

Hideo Kojima, who heads up the “Metal Gear Solid” franchise, tweeted about his next project in 2010: “The next project will challenge a certain type of taboo. If I mess up, I’ll probably have to leave the industry. However, I don’t want to pass by avoiding that. I turn 47 this year. It’s been 24 years since I started making games. Today, I got an ally who would happily support me in that risk. Although it’s just one person. For a start, it’s good.” This makes it sound like Kojima was able to persuade Dr. Canavero to join his venture — to help leverage his authority as a famous doctor and neurosurgeon to promote "Metal Gear Solid 5" with a viral marketing stunt.

[More...]

Claims That Head Transplant Has Been Successfully Done on a Monkey 20 comments

The scientist who claims to be about to carry out the first human head transplant says that he has successfully done the procedure on a monkey.

Maverick neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero has tested the procedure in experiments on monkeys and human cadavers, he told New Scientist.

Dr Canavero says that the success shows that his plan to transplant a human's head onto a donor body is in place. He says that the procedure will be ready before the end of 2017 and could eventually become a way of treating complete paralysis.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/head-transplant-has-been-successfully-done-on-a-monkey-maverick-neurosurgeon-sergio-canavero-claims-a6822361.html

takyon: Coverage at New Scientist with a "graphic content warning".

Previously: First Human Head Transplant Could Happen in Two Years
Complete Head Transplant or Complete Publicity Stunt


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27 2015, @10:25AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27 2015, @10:25AM (#150360)

    1. There's no waiting list for organs because of bioprinting
    2. The body recipient is paralyzed, had stunted growth from a genetic disorder, or worse

    The paralyzed may get spine or exoskeleton breakthroughs that are a lot safer before this pans out.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Immerman on Friday February 27 2015, @05:47PM

      by Immerman (3985) on Friday February 27 2015, @05:47PM (#150574)

      Nice idea, but do you really see much economic demand for such a thing?

      On the other hand, not so ethical but MUCH greater commercial value:

      3. Body transplants for the wealthy. How long do you suppose the head could survive if transplanted onto a healthy young body as the old one begins to age? Brain cells don't divide much, so many of the of the normal aging processes don't apply - how many of the remaining processes might be slowed or reversed by maintaining healthy young blood and immune system?

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27 2015, @11:09PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27 2015, @11:09PM (#150799)

        One of anti-aging's most important targets is the brain. With this whole body transplant, you do nothing to stop Alzheimer's, etc. I don't think you get "healthy young blood and immune system" with this transplant... because you'll be taking anti-rejection drugs to suppress the immune system. Now if you were able to grow an illegal clone and attach your head to it, that might be more interesting to the rich. It's a far greater investment, it's already illegal, but you get around the problem of finding an ideal and accessible donor body.

        The experiments of both scientists proved vital for the advancement of transplant techniques. But the animals didn't survive very long; Dr White's monkey lived for just nine days before dying of transplant immunorejection.

        The blood vessels, muscles and skin would then be sutured and the patient would be induced into a coma for several weeks to keep them from moving around; meanwhile, electrodes would stimulate the spine with electricity in an attempt to strengthen the new nerve connections. In case of rejection, the patient would be given anti-rejection immunosuppressants.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by SlimmPickens on Friday February 27 2015, @11:05AM

    by SlimmPickens (1056) on Friday February 27 2015, @11:05AM (#150366)

    The brain (Medulla) controls breathing (phrenic and thoracic nerves), heart rate (sympathetic cardiac and vagus nerves) and blood pressure (glossopharyngeal and vagus nerves) and probably more besides.

    Without a plan to reconnect the nervous system beyond 'apply time and electricity', I don't really see this working.

    IANA* and did not read the article.

    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by dak664 on Friday February 27 2015, @06:56PM

      by dak664 (2433) on Friday February 27 2015, @06:56PM (#150632)

      Why not graft the extra head onto a healthy donor? It could see and hear and possibly talk as well. Creeps me out but if someone were to make the procedure available i am sure there would be willing takers.

      • (Score: 2) by SlimmPickens on Friday February 27 2015, @07:42PM

        by SlimmPickens (1056) on Friday February 27 2015, @07:42PM (#150670)

        Sort-of the inverse of mike the chicken (headless for 2 years with intact brainstem). You'd sure want to be attached to someone that was comfortable with people but didn't talk much!

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27 2015, @11:31AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27 2015, @11:31AM (#150371)

    Heads are gonna roll!

    *cue in some Judas Priest

  • (Score: 5, Funny) by fadrian on Friday February 27 2015, @01:01PM

    by fadrian (3194) on Friday February 27 2015, @01:01PM (#150394) Homepage

    ... when I see Tom Cruise's head on [random young Scientologist]'s body.

    --
    That is all.
    • (Score: 3, Funny) by morgauxo on Friday February 27 2015, @02:32PM

      by morgauxo (2082) on Friday February 27 2015, @02:32PM (#150432)

      If there is a 7-foot tall Scientologist out there my bet is on him.

      • (Score: 3, Funny) by fadrian on Friday February 27 2015, @03:53PM

        by fadrian (3194) on Friday February 27 2015, @03:53PM (#150491) Homepage

        If there is a 7-foot tall Scientologist out there my bet is on him.

        Come on... They won't use John Travolta's body.

        Besides, I figure, even if they move the head, there's no brain there in either of them, so where's the challenge?

        --
        That is all.
        • (Score: 2) by fadrian on Friday February 27 2015, @09:55PM

          by fadrian (3194) on Friday February 27 2015, @09:55PM (#150754) Homepage

          And he's even had his face transplanted before, too!!! Maybe this is a great follow-on project! For both of them!!!!!!1!

          --
          That is all.
  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27 2015, @01:22PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27 2015, @01:22PM (#150399)

    Can I just buddy up with a member of the opposite sex who also wants a sex change?! Win-Win!

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by morgauxo on Friday February 27 2015, @02:34PM

    by morgauxo (2082) on Friday February 27 2015, @02:34PM (#150435)

    If someone really had a scheme for repairing a severed spinal chord are "head transplants" really the first thing they would be talking about? Sure, I can see how that would eventually come up but wouldn't the first thought be helping all the paralyzed people out there?

    • (Score: 2) by kaganar on Friday February 27 2015, @02:47PM

      by kaganar (605) on Friday February 27 2015, @02:47PM (#150443)
      There's a big difference between controlled incisions and arbitrary paralysis. It makes sense to test something new with as many knowns as possible -- that way if it fails, it's far easier to narrow down on what went wrong. Like medical unit testing, really, but at a much higher cost -- the cost of life.
      • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Friday February 27 2015, @05:40PM

        by Immerman (3985) on Friday February 27 2015, @05:40PM (#150570)

        Right, so we should test a new spinal-reattachment technology by transplanting a head, because there aren't many other unknowns with such a procedure.

        As I recall though, there's actually been some very promising research that's been done with reconnecting surgically severed spinal cords in rats, though I think they usually sever at the waist, presumably in order to avoid all the survival problems associated with disconnecting the brain from the lungs, heart, etc. that rely on external control/regulation. (Yes, a heart can beat on it's own, but I don't think it can adapt to changing bloodflow demands.)

      • (Score: 2) by morgauxo on Friday February 27 2015, @09:52PM

        by morgauxo (2082) on Friday February 27 2015, @09:52PM (#150750)

        "There's a big difference between controlled incisions and arbitrary paralysis."

        Which is why you make two controled incisions, one on each side of the original injury. Can the remaining chord be stretched to fill the gap? I don't know but even if you had to being in a section of cadaver chord I would think that would be easier than transplanting the whole head!

  • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27 2015, @03:23PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27 2015, @03:23PM (#150468)

    Does this mean I can now have her head on her body?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27 2015, @08:29PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27 2015, @08:29PM (#150703)

    Didn't Walt Disney have his head frozen for the day they could reattach it?
    Interesting to see if it's gonna happen now.

  • (Score: 1) by Username on Friday February 27 2015, @09:03PM

    by Username (4557) on Friday February 27 2015, @09:03PM (#150735)

    Weak biological bodies will degrade, should work on mechanical replacements.