Though there are some very notorious things happening in the world of medicine right now, some extraordinary developments are also being made, many of which are occurring in the world of transplants. Not long ago, was news was published regarding the successful transplant of lab-grown human vaginas into four teenage girls, who are now adults.
Now, news is developing that the world’s first try to transplant a whole human head is on the schedule, and will be debated 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, has faith in that surgeons will be capable of transplanting the head of one patient onto a totally dissimilar body by 2017. He detailed how the process would go and what it would look like in a current publication.
“When the receiver wakes up, Canavero forecasts they would be capable of moving and feel their face and would speak with the similar voice. Physiotherapy would allow the person to walk within a year. Numerous people have at present have come forward to get a new body.”
Is A Human Head Transplant Scientifically Promising?
Dr. Canavero isn’t the first one to consider these odds. Xiao-Ping Ren of Harbin Medical University in China magnificently performed a basic head transplant on a mouse (CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics, doi.org/2d5). Ren and his team of scientists in fact successfully succeeded to transplant the heads of 18 mice. After the transplant, all of the heads had normal brain functioning, they were capable of blinking and moving their whiskers. Unluckily, they were all paralyzed from the neck down and only lived for about three hours.
In 1970, neurosurgeon Robert White magnificently transplanted the head from one monkey onto the body of another. The monkey could still hear, see, smell, and taste as blood was productively circulating to the brain, but it was also paralyzed and the immune system ultimately rejected the foreign head and the monkey died.
As you can see, it’s hard to visualise a surgery taking place on humans when there has been little success at present. Seemingly, the trick is to get the spinal cords to fuse, and the fact that the body spontaneously rejects any new tissue makes this extremely hard. Sure, there might be ways around it, but we appear far from finding it.
Medical Ethics also comes into play.
“Another hurdle will be finding a country to support such a transplant. Canavero would like to do the trial in the US, but believes it might be easier to get consent somewhere in Europe. ‘The real tripping block is the ethics,’ he says. ‘Should this surgery be done at all? There are evidently going to be many people who differ with it.'”
“This is such an irresistible project, the probability of it happening is very unlikely,” says Harry Goldsmith, a clinical professor of neurological surgery at the University of California, Davis
What about the Brain? Would It Be The Similar Person Coming Out Of The Operation As The One Who Went In?
One question that came to my head when I first came across this story was, “what about the brain?” This process is different from what would be termed as a brain transplant, this is a head transplant, and does not include removing the fillings of the head before transplanting it onto another body.
Would the person be similar? If the person was the same, does that show that our “identity” or “individuality” goes beyond the body and the brain? Would the person be dissimilar? Would the person have memories of the preceding person? Would they feel the similar? I know they would keep their own brain, but having the body of a totally changed person would be quite something.
After all, studies have revealed that our heartbeat and other factors and other inputs from our body can affect our emotions, our will, and our language.
There are so many questions here that go beyond medicine and into ethics and philosophy all the way into consciousness. The thing is, we will not ever really know until a successful operation has taken place.
Here is a video of Dr. Sergio Canavero sharing his views and notions:
This post was written by Usman Abrar. To contact the writer write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Facebook