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Science

Doctor Ready to Perform First Human Head Transplant (newsweek.com) 256

Ross Kenneth Urken, reporting for Newsweek (edited and condensed): Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero had his Dr. Strange moment when he announced he'd be able to do a human head transplant in a two-part procedure he dubs HEAVEN (paywalled, this alternate link could help) (head anastomosis venture) and Gemini (the subsequent spinal cord fusion). [...] Canavero has a plan: It's a 36-hour, $20 million procedure involving at least 150 people, including doctors, nurses, technicians, psychologists and virtual reality engineers. In a specially equipped hospital suite, two surgical teams will work simultaneously -- one focused on Valery Spiridonov (patient) and the other on the donor's body, selected from a brain-dead patient and matched with the Spiridonov for height, build and immunotype. Both patients -- anesthetized and outfitted with breathing tubes -- will have their heads locked using metal pins and clamps, and electrodes will be attached to their bodies to monitor brain and heart activity. Next, Spiridonov's head will be nearly frozen, ultimately reaching 12 to 15 degrees Celsius, which will make him temporarily brain-dead.Shouldn't it be called a body transplant? Since a person is often defined by the brain. You can read the complete procedure here.
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Doctor Ready to Perform First Human Head Transplant

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  • But at $20 million dollars, it's definitely something you don't want to lose your head over. Too damn expensive!

    • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Friday April 29, 2016 @10:49AM (#52012849)

      I am more curious on the long term effects vs. the procedure.

      Our health and state of being is beyond just our brain. How we feel and experience the world is based on what our body translates as well. If you are feeling nervous stomach medicine can help that. Because when we feel nervous we send signals to our body and the sensation feedbacks to itself.

      So getting a new body how much would that change the man?

      • I would say, before asking this question, let them fail a couple times... The first mechanical hearts had the patients survive only for a few hours. And the heart's connections are "pretty simple", compared to the head connections. We cannot even have patients recover from spinal cord injuries right now gawddammit! Let alone a head transplant, with the spinal cord "fusion" they're talking about, with all the vascular system, the respiratory / digestive parts, musculo-skeletal links...

        I'll believe when I
      • Wouldn't this be better referred to as a body transplant? The recipient being the sentient?
      • Perhaps it would be simpler to graft the head on some other mammal. You could genetically engineer a humanized immunosuppressed animal, say a horse or a sheep. Humanized mice have been created to grow human compatible tissue so this isnt far fetched. By using clones and carefully raising them under highly identical conditions in a artifiial womb you could create more reproducible neural patterns in the bodies making it easier to learn which neuron controls what activitiy. Perhaps you could even train t

        • The martians are light years ahead of us. Transplanting a human head onto the body of a chihuahua is child's play for them.

      • They are going to screw so much up in the spinal cord (and vagus nerve) fusions that we won't be answering the more subtle questions of whether or not the donor body "redefines" the brain's personality.

        Simple body transformations (breast implants?) already transform personality and sense of self... of course a whole different body would have a bigger effect.

        • by Altrag ( 195300 )

          Its not quite the same question though. Transforming your "sense of self" is a purely psychological effect.

          The head (/body?) transplant on the other hand is actually replacing the entire signalling mechanism and there's huge open questions about whether two different people process signals from their nerves in exactly the same way and things like that. Same with differing body chemistries and so on.

          It could work out fine (well "fine".. I suspect the patient won't live more than a few hours at best given h

    • 20M us price. Real price 200K

      • How do you spend 20 million on this? I'm skeptical. For 20 million I'd expect to get a head upgrade to go with the body upgrade.

        • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Friday April 29, 2016 @11:28AM (#52013215)

          It seems like a better idea, that would have to work if the current plan will work, would be to graft the head onto a healthy fully functional human. That is you get a human with two heads. One head is already fully integrated to the body. That's important because your body depends on an autonomic nervous system to regulate it. Even if it is true that the new head could learn to control the body's mucles-- eventually-- its not going to work out of the gate. SO the body is going to die or be on life support while things rewire. And I would wonder how a body on life support even gets the feedback it needs to engage in some neural plasticity.

          On the other hand if you just graft the head and don't bother with the whole spinal cord thing then you have a lot more possibilities. The new head gets fed by a healthy working body. You might need to step up glucose production to handle two heads but I think that's within our current dynamic range.

          Thus you could carry your mom or dad's head around on your shoulder.

          You could then try to connect their spine to some other neural interface, either indirectly through say some strips of chest muscle that then control some electrical interface or directly to an electrical interface. Either way, you have the means to control some mechanical arms so the head at least has something it can do besides go for a ride.

          Things like speech might be a problem till you figure out how to get an airway, throat, and the anchor points for jaw and tongue working right, but in the mean time you could steven hawking it with some eyebrow muscles or eye twitches.

          Sees a lot more plausible and they already have done this with dogs.

        • Re:Exactly (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Friday April 29, 2016 @11:52AM (#52013437) Homepage

          The article says it requires 150 people for 36-hours. Suppose these highly-paid medical professionals cost $100/hr. So $100/hr x 150 people x 36 hours = $540,000 just in labor. Add the machinery, the cost of the hospital rooms, the months to years of recovery, the training, medications - $20M seems like a bargain.

          Also: From the standpoint of the body, it is a head upgrade! :-)

          • 150 people? How do 150 people even work on one person. You can't even get them all in the same room. But if you are liberally counting then getting your appendix out probably involves 150 people when you count the pharmacy staff, the guy that keeps the computer network running, and the people who sterilize the operating room...

            • 150 people? How do 150 people even work on one person. You can't even get them all in the same room. But if you are liberally counting then getting your appendix out probably involves 150 people when you count the pharmacy staff, the guy that keeps the computer network running, and the people who sterilize the operating room...

              This number is counting in the mob "no show" contracts.

    • by macs4all ( 973270 ) on Friday April 29, 2016 @11:10AM (#52013061)

      But at $20 million dollars, it's definitely something you don't want to lose your head over. Too damn expensive!

      Ba-dum-BUMP!

      However, since the brain is off-limits to the immune system (which would REALLY love to attack and kill brain cells!), wouldn't it be better to do a BRAIN transplant, rather than messing with all the fleshy/muscle-y parts that are NOT off-limits to "rejection"?

      • And those important organs that are outside the blood-brain barrier, but are hugely important, like the eyeballs, the tongue, etc? And look at it this way - you get to see the same face after, rather than looking at a dead man walking.
        • And those important organs that are outside the blood-brain barrier, but are hugely important, like the eyeballs, the tongue, etc? And look at it this way - you get to see the same face after, rather than looking at a dead man walking.

          Kind of like that horrible John Revolta movie, Face/Off?

          Gotta admit, that WOULD be mondo-creepy to NOT see the same face in the mirror that your brain EXPECTED to see!!! I think that would foster a whole new section of the DSM-V, LOL!

    • by marciot ( 598356 ) on Friday April 29, 2016 @12:51PM (#52013861)

      It costs an arm and a leg to get a head in this world.

    • I am wondering how long before we have access to full prosthetic bodies ... anyone who has seen Ghost in the Shell will know about this :)

  • Paywall (Score:5, Informative)

    by bruce_the_loon ( 856617 ) on Friday April 29, 2016 @10:45AM (#52012787) Homepage
    Please stop posting paywalled articles.
    • Indeed. Especially teaser-sites that shows the heading but the moment you scroll down it pops up a paywall and starts playing music.
    • Re:Paywall (Score:5, Informative)

      by msmash ( 4491995 ) Works for Slashdot <asteriskspace@outlook.com> on Friday April 29, 2016 @11:07AM (#52013025)
      Thanks for pointing that out. It's a feature article, so you wouldn't find this news elsewhere. I have updated the story to add a Google cache link of the story, check if that helps.
  • FINALLY (Score:5, Funny)

    by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Friday April 29, 2016 @10:46AM (#52012793) Journal

    ...I'll be able to use the Head of Vecna!
    It has been a long, oft-tragic story.

    http://www.blindpanic.com/humo... [blindpanic.com]

  • by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Friday April 29, 2016 @10:47AM (#52012819)

    Yep body transplant.

    But can someone point to where he has done successful animal trials? Or even sliced and diced the same animal in order to reattach the spinal cord? Or Froze and un-froze an animal head?

    Until the parts are tested, colour me skeptical

  • Just pop your head on a braindead clone.

  • Since when is 12-15 degrees Celsius "Nearly Frozen"?

    • The answer to the question in your body is in the head of your subject.
    • The article's author lives in the Sahara, 30*C is already too cold!

      (it should be a degree glyph instead of an asterisk, but /. thinks unicode is bad)

    • haha - I was going to post the same thing. Ice cubes wouldn't last at that temp, and a glass of water that temp wouldn't be particularly 'cold', nor is that temp outside really 'cold' either. (Cool, yes, but zero risk of hypothermia!) 2-4 deg C might be 'nearly frozen'. 15 C is an average day in Victoria, BC. ;)
  • So many things could go wrong. The spinal cord is the most complex bus in the body. Connecting the correct nerve on both ends seems almost impossible. Will his brain adapt to any incorrectly placed nerves?

    • The optic nerve does a hell of a lot of pre-processing, with a LOT of data. Even with the pre-processing, the part of the brain that processes vision is huge.

      And then there's the corpus callosum. While sthe spinal cord measures between 1 and 1.5 cm thick, it's readily apparent in brain cross-sections that the corpus callosum is much thicker.

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

      So many things could go wrong. The spinal cord is the most complex bus in the body. Connecting the correct nerve on both ends seems almost impossible. Will his brain adapt to any incorrectly placed nerves?

      Supposedly they actually tried this surgery a few years ago but screwed up the nerve connections so that whenever the patient tried to have a bowel movement his mouth would open. Fortunately last I heard he went on to have a very successful career as a politician.

  • So a doctor is giving two people head at once!!!!

  • There should be a bain-dead Playboy playmate or swimsuit model somewhere?

  • by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Friday April 29, 2016 @11:34AM (#52013263)
    i am ashamed of you slashdotters for not taking advantage of the Head in a Jar thing on Futurama, to make wisecracks about the worlds first head transplant, i wonder who the lucky head is? and the unfortunate head is?
    • "She's got the body of Daisy Ridley, and the face of Luise Rainer."
      Brings a whole new meaning to the term "butterface". 20-something body, 100+ head.
    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

      i am ashamed of you slashdotters for not taking advantage of the Head in a Jar thing on Futurama, to make wisecracks about the worlds first head transplant, i wonder who the lucky head is? and the unfortunate head is?

      Wouldn't this be closer to the time Zoidberg had to sew Fry's head onto Amy's body? Or even better would be a joke about headless Spiro Agnew

  • Abby Normal?

  • Who is "Doctor Ready" ?
  • Since I"m bald, nearsighted, and have a skin condition on my face, I'd just LOVE to be able to have a new head transplanted onto my body!
  • They can fuse a spinal cord? Color me confused, but then why are there still paraplegics?

  • Identity and law (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dareth ( 47614 ) on Friday April 29, 2016 @02:20PM (#52014463)

    On the off chance this actually works, he will have the fingerprints and DNA of the donor. Will he be responsible for children fathered by the body donor prior to the surgery? What about afterwards? Just a few thoughts off the top of my head. But it would be interesting to see how it would play out.

  • by nanospook ( 521118 ) on Friday April 29, 2016 @03:44PM (#52015001)
    So if you are 70 and get grafted to the body of an 18 year old.. Assuming all goes well, what will happen? Will your head still die on schedule? Or does the younger body result in a rejuvenation of the head and brain?

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