Have you ever wondered if it is possible to create a real-life Frankenstein’s monster? In the future, something quite similar to this could very well become a reality.
I first came across the idea of human head transplants online. At first, I was shocked, yet a bit intrigued as well. I had previously done some reading about face transplants, so I was curious to read about the head transplant process.
Human head transplants are reminiscent of Frankenstein in that the concept involves using a cadaver and “reanimating” it by attaching a living human head. The procedure, which has never been done with a living human head, involves many painstaking steps. In order to create the best chance of success, it must be carried out in an extremely precise manner. First, the whole bodies of both the living recipient and the donor, a brain-dead yet otherwise healthy individual, must be preserved by freezing. Next, the neck of the recipient is cut into, the arteries and veins are connected with tubes, and the spinal cord is severed. The head is then attached to the donor’s spinal cord with a type of glue known as Texas-PEG. Lastly, the recipient’s muscles, veins, and organs are connected to those of the donor. After the procedure is done, the recipient is put in an induced coma for one month so that the head and the body can properly join together and heal.
Presently, Sergio Canavero, an Italian neuroscientist, and Xiaoping Ren, a Chinese neurosurgeon, have done head transplants on mice, rats, and a dog; all the animals survived. They have also already performed a head transplant using two human cadavers. Next, they are planning to swap the heads of two brain-dead organ donors, and after that, they are aiming to perform the world’s first living human head surgery.
A Russian man named Valery Spiridonov has volunteered to be the first living person to have his head transferred to another’s body. Spiridonov has Werdnig-Hoffman disease, which has caused his muscles to waste away. He is confined to a wheelchair; his range of movement consists of being able to feed himself, type, and steer his wheelchair. Since his disease does not have a cure as of yet, and doctors are not sure of how much time he has left, Spiridonov wants to find a way to prolong his life as much as possible.
Even though the first living head transplant may soon be carried out, most scientists are of the belief that head transplants are neither ethical nor plausible. There are many flaws in Canavero and Ren’s plan to carry out head transplants; one such flaw is that there are many different parts that make up a human head, so it is extremely likely that the body will reject the head, even if immunosuppressive medication is used to decrease the risk of that happening. Also, as of now, there is no known way of effectively fusing a spinal cord together. This has led many to believe that Canavero has been lying about the success of his earlier tests. Additionally, there are a host of ethical issues with human head transplants. For example, experts believe that a recipient of a head transplant could very well go insane when the head is joined to the body, since the head is being put in a completely foreign environment.
Overall, there is much skepticism about whether human head transplants are a viable option for the future, but if a way to do one effectively is figured out, it could vastly improve the quality of life for many people. I am interested to read about more developments on this topic in the future.