Head transplants on mice have been conducted successfully for over 1,000 times by Dr Xiaoping Ren of Harbin Medical University in China. After a gruelling 10 hour surgery, the mice were able to breathe, drink and even see properly (but for just a few minutes).What shocked the world was when an Italian neuroscientist, Sergio Canavero announced that he will be performing the world’s first HUMAN head transplant, scheduled for Decemeber 2017. Keep in mind that I am a huge advocate for advances in science. But I find too many limitations to this project.
1. The brain depends on continuous flow of blood and any type of cut in the flow can cause rapid brain damage, even at normal temperatures.
2. Vital functions of the body like breathing and the beating of the heart are regulated by the autonomic nervous system. The removal of the head causes these functions to shut down completely.
3. The putatively corresponding nerves in the recipient body’s spinal cord and all the other nerves coming out from the head need to be connected for the brain to control movement and receive sensory information.
4. There is a high risk of systematic neuropathic pain ( pain caused by damage in the somatosensory nervous system) after the surgery has been completed.
5. In many cases, transplanted organs are rejected by the body following few to several months after surgery. So, transplanting an entire head has a high risk of mortality.
The surgery is calculated to take about 36 hours to perform. The success of the project is unknown, but it does pave a way for the physically disabled to hope for a better life with a new body.