Yeah, head transplants. Like, putting a new head on a different body, and being expected to live through it.
It may not be as Sci-Fi as it sounds.
The past few decades have been “a golden age of transplant medicine”. Surgeons can successfully transplant hearts, kidneys, lungs, and livers – but did you know that they can also transplant voice boxes, tongues, uteruses, and even hands, faces, and penises? These last few are especially impressive given the insane amount of organic tissue involved, such as bone, skin, muscle, cartilage, nerves, tendons, and blood vessels.
Given that knowledge, head transplants seem to logically be the next frontier.
Xiaoping Ren, a Chinese surgeon, has been working on transplant surgery for decades, and has successfully transplanted a head before.
Not a human head, but a mouse head.
He conducted an experiment where he sliced the spinal cord of a mouse, in which would normally render its back legs forever useless. However, after the cord had been severed, he poured a fluid called polyethylene glycol, or P E G, over the severed cord. The chemical literally stitched the animal’s nerves back together.
And guess what? Two days later, the mouse was walking again.
Albeit not perfectly, he had an occasional lurch in his back legs, but compared to his mouse accomplice whose spinal cord was also severed but did not receive any P E G, he was a world-class sprinter.
Dr. Ren hopes to be ale to test P E G for its affect on humans, and he even has a willing test subject. Valery Spiridonov, a 31 year-old Russian man who suffers from the incurable Werdnig-Hoffman disease, has offered himself up as a potential candidate for a head transplant. His disease is a genetic disorder that wastes away his muscles and kills motor neurons, which affects how the brain communicates with the body. His condition is fatal, and doctors are surprised his has lived this long in the first place. He is an ideal candidate for this type of experimental procedure.
Despite the millions of dollars in research spent, modern medicine still has no way to repair damaged spinal cords. P E G could be the answer that doctors and patients all over the world have been searching for. It is still unforeseen whether or not the surgery will be legally allowed to take place, but it is a possibility that it may happen in less than a year with the help of over 80 surgeons.
For more information on these head transplants, see the link below and check out the original article published in The Atlantic, which is long and comprehensive.
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