Modern medicine has progressed to the point where we can almost transplant any part of the body to another body, but the brain, or more generally, the head, is something that we’ve yet to fully understand, yet alone transplant on humans. However, one Italian scientist, Sergio Canavero, believes we are about two years away from a successful head transplant. His method, as CNET summarizes, is as follows:
“First, both the transplant head and the donor body would 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. In case of rejection, the patient would be given anti-rejection immunosuppressants.”
I can imagine that the rejoining of the spinal cord is key, as the person would be paralyzed from the neck down without it. Canavero contends, though, that if the procedure is successful, the subject would be able to regain the ability to walk within 12 months, no mean feat even for people with spinal cord injuries. What’s possibly more interesting, or controversial, is the application of such a medical procedure – for this to be done, the body must technically be alive, which raises some interesting ethical questions. Still, it will be an impressive feat, if it is successful, and just another example of how far medicine has come in our lifetimes.
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