Human HEAD transplant 'could happen in next ten years'

The Daily Mail

24th December, 2019 02:25:53 printer

Human HEAD transplant 'could happen in next ten years'

It's always been a given that you are stuck with the same body for life.

But a former NHS neurosurgeon has claimed that within ten years this may no longer be the case.

The previous clinical lead at Hull University Teaching Hospitals, Dr Bruce Mathew, said advances in robotics, stem cell transplants and nerve surgery could make it possible to transfer a brain and spinal cord between two bodies.

One head transplant has already been carried out between two dead bodies, where an 18-hour operation saw the spine, nerves and blood vessels re-connected at Harbin Medical University, China, two years ago.

Mathew stumbled across the 'not impossible' theory while writing a science fiction novel called Chrysalis: A surgical sci-fi story about immortal potential with futurist author Michael J Lee.

'Initially our intention was just to brainstorm an idea and it seemed rather silly, but then I realised, it actually isn't,' he told The Telegraph.

'If you transplant the brain and keep the brain and spinal cord together, it's actually not impossible.'

Describing the experiment, he said: 'You would take off the spinal column, so that you could drop in the whole brain and spinal cord and lumbar sacral into a new body.

'It's very difficult to take out the dura (the protective membrane of the spinal cord) intact without making a hole in it. It will take a number of advancements, but it will probably will happen in the next 10 years.'

The operation could help people suffering with muscular dystrophy, amputees, or even bring individuals back from the dead.

Dr Xiaoping Ren managed to transplant a head onto a dead monkey's body in 2017.

'The first human head transplant on human cadavers has been done,' he told The Telegraph. 'A full head swap between brain-dead organ donors is the next stage.'

Russian computer scientist Valery Spiridonov, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, volunteered to become the first head transplant two years ago.

The research has failed to get support in Europe and the US due to ethical concerns, but has been allowed in China.

Italian neurologist Dr Sergio Canavero, chief of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group and who works with Dr Ren, is attempting to pioneer an approach involving severing the brain from the spinal cord.

He plans to cut the connection with a diamond blade and then cool the brain to a state of deep hypothermia to protect it, before connecting it to a new body.