Wow-I just heard, on Radio 4 BBC, a whole programme featuring this Canavero person and his ideas for head transplants. It is also all over the newspapers.
They keep talking about the person with a terrible disease of the body wanting their head transplanted to a healthy body.
WHOSE HEALTHY BODY? WHOSE BODY ARE YOU GETTING?
‘First human head transplant now possible’,
‘In 1970 Robert White successfully transplanted the head of a rhesus monkey onto the body of a second rhesus.
Dr Sergio Canavero, a member of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, has proposed using a similar method with humans.
He believes that it a team of 100 could perform the operation in 36 hours — at a cost of £8.5million. Both heads would have to be removed at the same time, and reconnected within an hour’ (The Telegraph Newspaper):
Now let’s have a little think about this, using our own heads.
First- I am going to pretend to take this seriously and do the science:
Transplants are difficult things for two reasons:
1) immunological problems– where the recipient (host) rejects the donor (graft) tissue because they are incompatible.
Transplants require matching donor to recipient as immunologically close as possible, but the recipient (host) needs to take immuno-suppressive drugs (drugs that suppress the immune system) for life. This makes the recipient susceptible to infections.
Stem cell science gets funding because it does fundamental research that has applications that benefit this clinical area. One area is ‘Regenerative Medicine’. This is getting your own stem cells to grow new tissue, the tissues that have degenerated. If you grow your own tissues you avoid the problems of immunological rejection of a donor transplant.
2) surgical problems- connecting the organ correctly so that it functions
Being able to re-connect broken nerve cells (neurons) would be of great benefit and the surgery that this claim invokes would be very useful in doing this for patients with spinal cord injuries.
We are having problems connecting the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The central nervous system (CNS) is even more problematic, probably due to the glial cell support, but we are not sure yet.
So all of this points to Canavero’s claim as CRAP SCIENCE!
Now let’s look at the ethics:
You know those ads for gyms and beauty parlours that tell you that you can ‘get the body you want’?
Well the body I want belongs to someone else (I can’t decide between Brad’s or Angelina’s as I would be happy with either attached to my head!).
So who is about to donate their body so you can have your ugly mug on it?
We can’t even get enough kidneys for transplants and each of us has two kidneys and can survive on one.
Heart transplants rely on someone dying as you cannot survive without your one heart and most of us are a bit reticent about being a donor.
Getting an entire (healthy) body is even more unlikely. If it is a healthy body why are they dying?
This is all so stupid that I wonder if Canavero doesn’t, in fact, need a brain transplant. Any donors?