October 6, 2013 - In Frankenstein, a mad scientist puts together a man by sewing together dead human parts. One of those parts is a head. It seems like a far-fetched notion, but Italian neuroscientist Dr. Sergio Canavero of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group believes that with new strides in technology, a human head could be transplanted from one body to another in the very near future.
To quote Young Frankenstein, are we "entering the realm of genius," or of madness? Head transplants are hardly a new concept, but the idea of it actually being possible has been up for debate. The main problem with the concept is that it is would be very difficult to connect a head to a different body's spinal cord. However, Canavero believes that with the recent creation of something called fusogens, the process is now possible. Fusogens, which are plastic membranes, were created to repair severed nerves. They allow nerve impulses to be transmitted to the donor nervous system.
It sounds crazy, but Canavero believes that a full head transplant could be possible within just a few years. Even crazier? He's already figured out how to do it. In 2008, he used electrical stimulation to wake up a patient who had been in a coma for two years. He bases his own theories on those of Robert White, a neurosurgeon who transplanted a monkey's head in the 1970's. The procedure would begin with two bodies: the donor, and the recipient. Both bodies would be chilled to a certain temperature. Two surgeons would cut their spinal cords at the same time. The donated head would be immediately put on the recipient's body and, using fusogens, be attached to the recipient's spinal cord.
Obviously, such a procedure would bring up some ethical concerns. It's also pretty creepy to think there might someday be Frankenpeople running around. But the concept itself is fascinating.
The video below is a re-enactment of Robert White's 1970s head transplantation experiment with a monkey, and viewers are advised that it involves a re-enactment of a 1970s head transplantation experiment with a monkey.