Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero claims that we now have the technology to perform successful human head transplants — literally taking the head of one person and putting it onto the body of another.
He published his idea in a paper titled “HEAVEN: The head anastomosis venture Project outline for the first human head transplantation with spinal linkage (GEMINI),” which can be found in the June issue of Surgical Neurology International. Check it out for the full details of the process.
Such head transplant experiments have been performed on animals in the past, but they were only temporarily “successful,” leaving the animal paralyzed below the area of transplant.
Recent progress has proven, however, that it’s at least possible to restore connectivity with severed spinal cords in rats (though this is a far cry from head transplants, of course). It’s these breakthroughs regarding spinal cord linkage that makes Canavero believe successful head transplants are now possible, though it would take multiple surgical teams and millions of dollars to accomplish.
“The only way to perform a cephalic exchange in man is to cool the body-recipient (R)’s head to such a low temperature to allow the surgeons to disconnect and reconnect it to the donor (D)’s body, whose head has been removed in the same operating theater by a second surgical team. Once R’s head has been detached, it must be joined to D’s body, that is, it must be reconnected to the circulatory flow of D, within the hour.”
Head Transplants: Yay or Nay?
Not everyone’s convinced. Not just of Canavero’s claim, but that we should perform these transplants even if they are possible. Dr. Jerry Silver, for example, recalls his experience with the 1970 head transplant of a rhesus monkey to the body of another, performed by Dr. Robert White (which Canavero references in his paper):
“I remember that the head would wake up, the facial expressions looked like terrible pain and confusion and anxiety in the animal. The head will stay alive, but not very long…It was just awful. I don’t think it should ever be done again.”
Oh, we might be able to do it with humans. Eventually. We could do a lot of things, if we really wanted to.
But should we?
Besides, we all know what happens when you try to perform a head transplant. You either succeed and create something like Frankenstein’s monster, or you end up with a Jan In The Pan scenario and get your arm ripped off by Sloth from The Goonies. It’s a lose-lose situation.
Oh, well. I guess we’ll see what happens!