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Medicine Science Technology

Surgeon Plans To 'Reawaken' Cryogenically Frozen Brains, Transplant Them Into Someone Else's Skull (nationalpost.com) 125

Sergio Canavero, the Italian surgeon who plans to perform the world's first human head transplant within the next year, says he is preparing to reawaken cryogenically frozen brains and transplant them into someone else's skull. "In an interview with a German-language magazine, Canavero says he will attempt to bring the first brains frozen in liquid nitrogen at an Arizona-based cryogenics bank back to life 'not in 100 years,' but three years at the latest," reports National Post. From the report: Transplanting a brain only -- and not an entire head -- gets around formidable rejection issues, Canavero said, since there will be no need to reconnect and stitch up severed vessels, nerves, tendons and muscles as there is when a new head is fused onto a brain-dead donor body. Canavero allows that one "problematic" issue with brain transplants, however, would be that "no aspect of your original external body remains the same." "Your head is no longer there, your brain is transplanted into an entirely different skull," he told OOOM magazine, published by the same company that handles the Italian brain surgeon's public relations. The flamboyant neuroscientist who some ethicists have decried as "nuts" rattled the transplant world when he first outlined his plans for a human head transplant two years ago in the journal, Surgical Neurology International. Bioethicist Arthur Caplan called Canavero's latest proposal to merge head transplants with "resurrecting" the frozen dead beyond ridiculous. "People have their own doubts about whether anything can be salvaged from these frozen heads or bodies because of the damage freezing does," said Caplan, head of ethics at NYU Langone Medical Centre in New York City. "Then saying that he has some technique for making this happen, that has never been demonstrated in frozen animals, is absurd."
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Surgeon Plans To 'Reawaken' Cryogenically Frozen Brains, Transplant Them Into Someone Else's Skull

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I had this idea when I was 8.
    Tell us when it actually works.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 29, 2017 @03:06AM (#54324051)

    Dear Sergio,

    All the best to your endeavours.

    Yours sincerely
    Frank N. Stein

    • On the reality front, he tried a head, didn't work, so he figures a brain only might be easier...

      The optic and auditory nerves alone worry me, not to mention therapy to regain tongue and vocal cord control, etc. Imagine if the brain transplant works and the consciousness reawakens in a completely sensory deprived state. Probably not what the transplantee had in mind.

      • This assumes the brain's cells aren't all dead, burst from the freezing.

        Yes, I'd be pissed at awakening to a largely numb body because you were an experiment decades ahead of schedule.

      • We all know this isn't going to work. We can't even repair a severed spinal column with anything close to satisfactory results. What makes this guy think he can get a whole brain working again?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I can't even wrap my head around this.

  • the neckbeards start foaming at the mouth when they correct the headline by saying its a body transplant.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Bioethicist Arthur Caplan called Canavero's latest proposal to merge head transplants with "resurrecting" the frozen dead beyond ridiculous.

    I mean it doesn't seem feasible to me but let's hear from someone who is actually qualified to judge.

  • by pz ( 113803 ) on Saturday April 29, 2017 @03:22AM (#54324091) Journal

    In the US, doing anything that involves human experimentation -- and this is clearly experimentation -- requires approval from an institutional review board (IRB), otherwise no funding agency support the work, and no journal is going to accept the results for publication.

    This fellow's plans don't come close to passing the sniff test, let alone IRB-level rigorous examination. And let me tell you from personal experience, getting IRB approval is not a walk in the park.

    Who is paying for this work? Why are any of the cryobanks going to allow him access to their ... um ... residents?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The humans in question are dead and most likely they or their relatives consented to attempts to restore them to life (in the car of the cryogenically frozen ones) or to organ donation (in the car of the body donors). It's hard to see what the ethical issues would be that aren't already raised by subjecting body's to the cryogenic process which is just as experimental (but again - these are dead people who consented to this when they were alive).

      The reason the facilities would agree is that it frees up stor

      • It's hard to see what the ethical issues would be that aren't already raised by subjecting body's to the cryogenic process which is just as experimental

        No, it's not that hard. In the off chance this quack succeeds in reviving someone, the chances are high that there will be substantial tissue damage.
        The patient may experience unbearable pain, and being paralyzed, may not be able to tell anyone, so it essentially becomes torture.
        When freezing someone, you end their suffering, so that's much more ethical than inducing more suffering.

        • by pz ( 113803 )

          When freezing someone, they're already declared dead, to my understanding. The oversight approval isn't so far-fetched to imaging obtaining.

          But, as you pointed out, the intent to re-animate that has very serious potential adverse results is not something that is going to be taken lightly by an oversight board.

        • There's an old sci-fi short story of an astronaut on Pluto - suit failure, almost instantly down to almost absolute zero. Under those conditions, the electrical impulses in his brain continue to think since there's no resistance. He stands there for eternity just watching the sun rise and set, and the stars, unable to move a muscle.

          Is this a life? He can't even die, but he can go crazy.

          • Wouldn't work. Impulses in the brain are electro-chemical. The chemical part would cease at absolute zero, bringing a halt to all impulses, all thoughts.
            • I know, but strange things happen near absolute zero. Just look at Helium. Maybe at that temperature, there's no need for chemical impulses to fuel the production of electricity - whatever electricity was there would just continue to circulate, same as vortices don't break down in superfluids like He.

              Probably not, but imagine the horror stories possible. Cryonically frozen, successfully revived, but every single one is totally insane after spending years with no outside stimulation. They go around killing

      • The issue arises of the fact that at least he thinks there is a nonzero chance that the humans in question don't remain dead.

    • Re:IRB approval? (Score:5, Informative)

      by irving47 ( 73147 ) on Saturday April 29, 2017 @07:30AM (#54324493) Homepage

      The cryobank mentioned actually denies involvement with him, flat-out. I get a feeling we're being trolled and this is a viral marketing campaign for a crappy movie.

      • The cryobank mentioned actually denies involvement with him, flat-out. I get a feeling we're being trolled and this is a viral marketing campaign for a crappy movie.

        There are ways, Dude - You don't wanna know about it, believe me

        • The cryobank mentioned actually denies involvement with him, flat-out. I get a feeling we're being trolled and this is a viral marketing campaign for a crappy movie.

          There are ways, Dude - You don't wanna know about it, believe me

          I heard a story about a rich, sick old dude from India, got himself a team of the best western doctors available (using absurd piles of money to buy their time), they told him his case was basically hopeless - he needed multiple organ transplants and he would be dead long before donors could be found. They were retained for another 2 days, and within 24 hours of the transplant diagnosis compatible organs were delivered by private courier for implantation.

      • by slapys ( 993739 )

        Like this one?? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    • Cryobanks are privately funded, it's a whole (weird) world onto itself - barely clear of the murder statutes, most "residents" marginally funded while a few pump in impressive amounts of capital. It's a good example of capitalism - it exists because there is sufficient demand to support it, not because IRBs approve.

    • "Why are any of the cryobanks going to allow him access to their ... um ... residents?"

      I think people get admitted to these things with the primary understanding that one day this can happen.

      If the cryobanks say "no" to this, it upends their mainline business.
  • It says you don't have to deal with severed nerves and veins, but don you still have to do that with the brain transplant? Like shouldn't he first bring the brain back alive with artificial organs first? Or are dead people cheaper?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Or at least it would be if this was a comic book and the Comics Code Authority [wikipedia.org] was still in effect.

  • Well, if it doesn't work at first, an easy way out would be to say that the cryogenically freezing brain process needs to be enhanced...

    • by Megol ( 3135005 )

      That is already known, research in vitrification of larger organs is commonly seen as the way forward.

      The people believing in resurrection of frozen dead humans (and human parts) know that we have no current technology that can repair the known damages, if pressed they will admit that there is a huge chance that it isn't physically possible to do. Remember that the frozen ex-humans have to be pronounced dead before the long freezing process begins - it is likely that enough tissue have been destroyed than n

  • They expect to put a brain in a different skull and not have to deal with all kinds of reconnection issues? What about connecting the brain to the spinal cord? What about connecting the brain to its blood supply?
    • Yep, he's either delusional, or it's part of some huge scam.
      I'm voting for delusional.

      Still, the brain only would actually be harder than a head transplant. Kind of the same way it's easier for surgeons, real ones that is, to transplant the entire heart and both lungs than it is to just do the heart.

      Of course, that cretin should first get his epic fail and possible murder or manslaughter charges for his head transplant he's already committed himself to before he goes for the wetware only version. Speaking
    • Plus, a transplanted *head* might end up paralyzed from the neck down in its donor body, but at least the patient might have working eyesight & facial muscles. Transplant a brain alone, and the patient doesn't even get to have *that* as a 'Plan B' consolation.

      Another possibility is that at best, you'd be resurrecting a zombie whose brain effectively had its programming erased when it died (or, perhaps, would be like a Sandforce SSD that loses power during a write operation & leaves the storage in a

  • Nightmarish revival. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Saturday April 29, 2017 @04:05AM (#54324143)

    Now, let's just say all the problems of tissue damage are somehow magically resolved, you still end up with a horrifying ending. We lack the technology to properly integrate the vast majority of nerves, especially the spine. In the best case scenario, this guy would revive someone to live in a body they cannot control and possibly even be unable to sense anything at all. That's a fate worse than death.

    • For what it's worth, they said much the same thing about heart transplants, liver transplants, lung transplants, etc etc. They said going to the Moon was impossible (and at the time, it was)...but technology won out.

      Yes, I agree a brain transplant is *vastly* more difficult than any of those things, but I would never say that it is flatly impossible. It's not possible today, but in 20 or 50 years? I wouldn't rule it out.

      • Yes, I agree a brain transplant is *vastly* more difficult than any of those things, but I would never say that it is flatly impossible.

        Umm... that makes two of us?

        • Umm... that makes two of us?

          No, not really. What I got from your comment was that it may be possible, but that it won't work in the end ("live in a body they cannot control and possibly even be unable to sense anything"), whereas what I'm saying is that I suspect it will eventually be possible, and have better results. Probably not 100% full functioning or control of the body, but enough to function well enough to take care of themselves and have a meaningful existence.

          I think the technology will eventually be able to integrate the ma

          • What I got from your comment was that it may be possible, but that it won't work in the end

            You have inferred something that was not implied because I merely stated that "[w]e lack the technology to properly integrate the vast majority of nerves, especially the spine" but made no claims about the possibility of such a technology being developed in the future. I wrote, "this guy would revive someone to live in a body they cannot control" as a reference this particular doctor and his timetable.

            • You're correct, I mistakenly took your comment as a general example instead of a specific reference.

              And you're probably right, the first X number of these will probably go badly, but the same has been true for almost any advanced medical procedure or transplant operation. But in the end, I think they'll have some success.

      • Agreed, we cannot know the distant future.

        Unless this quack has access to serious amounts of unpublished tech, there's no way he will succeed within the next 10 years, much less the next 3 to 5.

        • Agreed, we cannot know the distant future.

          I can. SPOILER ALERT: We all die and the Sun cooks the Earth into a giant dirty marble.

          Unless this quack has access to serious amounts of unpublished tech, there's no way he will succeed within the next 10 years, much less the next 3 to 5.

          It may be that his attempts (failures) lead to other doctors learning from his mistakes and trying the same thing with better results. For example, the first heart operations were horrific, but they in turn led to all sorts of advances.

          Like stents, for example. They used to have to crack your chest and gut you like a fish to put a stent in. The open-heart surgery itself used to kill more than a few patients, but it improv

    • Yes, and even if it works, I have the feeling that each brain somehow maps the visual cortex to its body's particular retinas to unscramble reality, and I doubt you can just whack two different retinas into the optic nerve and expect 4K resolution the next day... An adult brain may take forever to do same trick again...

    • The body will die as soon as life support (artificial heart and lungs) are removed - even the basic brainstem functions won't work.

  • by Harold Halloway ( 1047486 ) on Saturday April 29, 2017 @05:06AM (#54324255)

    Of all the outstanding medical problems in the world, affecting millions, perhaps billions of people, this is not one of them. This is simply a prima donna surgeon grandstanding with a medically-unlikely, ethically-dubious procedure of use to nearly no-one. Mind you, Italy seems to have a track record on ethically-dubious medical procedures and is unlikely to stop him.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sure! Go ahead!
    Transplant the Brain and all the knowledge and experience.
    But the Soul! the Soul resides in the heart!

  • That it's not going to work. Just imagine for a moment it did.

    Ponder for just one moment the social impact of something like that.

    If I said you have a beautiful body would you hold it against me?
    No, but I'd be afraid for my life.

  • Where is Spock's brain!
  • So let's say this works (yeah right) and we have a fully (re-)functioning human at the end of the job. With a cryogenically frozen memory. Sure.
    Is there the slightest chance of that memory being intact? If the person awakens with no memory of anything at all, as we all have done already once in our lives, can that really be considered to be the same person?

    • Is there the slightest chance of that memory being intact?

      Of course. People's brains have been cooled so far that any activity stopped and retained their memory after warming. Most memories are "nonvolatile"; only short-term memories are volatile.

  • When you say this guy "plans to" do anything, the correct wording should be "says he's going to".

    He's been saying he's going to do that head transplant for a while now, never providing ANY details on HOW he's going to do it. He's basically just talking.

  • by GrBear ( 63712 ) on Saturday April 29, 2017 @10:24AM (#54324945)

    Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, the first brain donor will be Abby Normal.

  • My brain calls dibs on Brad Pitt's body! I would have gone with Nicolas Cage, but John Travolta got there first.

  • Any "cryogenically frozen brain" is mush: the crystallization of the water inside the brain destroys the tissue. Eventually, we may be able to work around that, but we aren't there yet.

    • Any "cryogenically frozen brain" is mush: the crystallization of the water inside the brain destroys the tissue. Eventually, we may be able to work around that, but we aren't there yet.

      Partially true. Slowly freezing tissues dosent damage them significantly, this we can do fairly well already. The hard bit is thawing them rapidly and uniformly to avoid cellular damage. This already can be done for very very small samples, but methods like this one [slashdot.org] hold promise for actually thawing large samples, like organs, with minimal damage.

      • Any "cryogenically frozen brain" is mush

        Partially true.

        No, not "partially true", absolutely and fully true. Any "cryogenically frozen brain" is damaged beyond healing or repair.

        • Any "cryogenically frozen brain" is damaged beyond healing or repair.

          So it will work fine on our overlords.

          • So it will work fine on our overlords.

            I don't have any "overlords".

            You, of course, have, but you only have yourself to blame for that.

  • I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned Thomas M. Disch's sci-fi story Fun With Your New HEAD [art.net] (full text - about 1 page). No need for donor bodies.
  • Since the brain and body grow as one unit all your life. They are as one. To me, I can't see putting a brain into a foreign organic body that has been tailored for another person's brain since birth.. So maybe a prosthetic body is a better choice since a prosthetic body can be "tuned" to that particular brain and feel more as "one" again.
  • What is brain?!?
  • APRIL FOOLS!

    Oh! Wait! That was weeks ago!
    Did nobody tell BeauHD or Mr. Canavero?!

    So, let me get this straight:
    A frozen brain is to be inserted into a brain-dead body, and then expected to actually re-animate?!
    What of damage from being frozen?
    What about connecting nerves to paths to muscles?

    Sorry. I just can't wrap my - (ahem) - head around this one!

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