An Italian scientist has said that head transplants may be possible, after claiming to have had a “major breakthrough”.
The Local reports that Sergio Canavero, a neuroscientist, said it may be possible to merge bone marrow when fusing one person’s head with another’s spine. Writing for the journal Frontier Neurology, he said that operation could be made possible by using membrane-fusing substances called fusogens, injected between the two stumps.
Canavero received a barrage of criticism last year after publishing his initial research in which he said that head transplants could be made possible by severing the heads of both patients before cooling and cleaning out the “recipient” head and then attaching it to the new body with polymer glue.
His findings have been dismissed by Dr Calum MacKellar of the Scottish Council of Human Bioethics, however. MacKellar told the Local, “Changing the bone marrow has been done for years, especially with cancer patients.
“But the biggest problem with this kind of transplant would be the nerves, and that’s still not possible.”
He added that head transplants on animals have left them severely paralysed, eventually killing them.
“The Soviet Union did head transplants on monkeys and they died after a few weeks,” he added.
“They were paralysed from the head down; even though the heart was still pumping, the neurological function did not work. That is the biggest challenge.”
He also said there were huge questions as to how ethical the procedure would be: “The question of identity is complex…there needs to be a lot more research done.
“If it ever goes ahead it will take decades… neurologists today have a lot more urgent matters to contend with.”