Transplanting a Human Head? That's Insane

Even ignoring ethics, the science just isn't there: Nick Stockton
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 3, 2015 2:10 PM CST
Transplanting a Human Head? That's Insane
Head transplants? Not likely, writes Nick Stockton.   (Shutterstock)

We've been hearing a lot of hype about head transplants, largely thanks to a single surgeon who suggests he's pretty much got it figured out. Well, don't believe it for a second, writes Nick Stockton in Wired: The "plan is insane. Like, James Bond villain insane." First off, there are the ethical concerns of how one would experiment with this. Are we going to give Dr. Sergio Canavero "free rein to cut and sew living peoples’ heads to dead peoples’ bodies until he (gets) it right"? Then there are the many scientific hurdles, with the first concern being that "the central nervous system in higher vertebrates—like humans—does not regenerate."

That means connecting the spinal cord would be a real problem. The only way to do it would be through stem cell therapy, which would require years more research, not to mention drugs to lessen the associated risk of cancer and scarring. "To doctors like (neurosurgeon Binhai Zhang of UC San Diego), Canavero’s science is fantastical, his ethics are nonexistent, and his ideas should not be taken seriously," writes Stockton. Or, in Zhang's words, "He’s insane. You can’t put a head on somebody else!" But Canavero, who apparently has very little verbal filter, sees things differently:

  • "When you go public with something like this, you have to have two balls. … There are people who are not so strong-balled and will just get crushed by the critics. But I love the critics. This is a feat of theoretical neuroscience and the evidence is there and it’s going to work."
He also compares his effort to landing a man on the moon, which he says was about the US and Soviet Union measuring a different part of anatomy. Click for the full piece. (Read more organ transplants stories.)

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