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Science fiction on the verge of becoming reality: This is the world’s first head transplant machine

Science fiction on the verge of becoming reality: This is the world's first head transplant machine 1

How would a head transplant be performed? Would it be possible to remove someone’s head and transplant it into another person’s neck and shoulders?

Head transplantation, also known as whole-body transplantation, captured the imagination of science fiction writers in the early 20th century. However, the complexity of the subject soon proved to be overwhelming even for them.

Post-World War II advancements in surgical instruments brought surgeons into the fold. Over several decades, they refined the technique and solved technical issues, as evidenced by animal experiments. Yet, practical challenges persisted.

While it is relatively straightforward to sequentially stitch nerves that will eventually grow, connect blood vessels, and fuse bones, and there are well-established methods for reattaching the larynx and esophagus, the spinal cord presented significant difficulties.

Axons failed to regenerate within it, leaving sensitivity and movement unrecovered, rendering the transplant futile. This culminated in the creation of Professor Dowell’s head, which was only capable of eye movement and lacked the ability to speak.

A significant breakthrough is on the horizon

BrainBridge is reportedly developing a “head transplant system,” which is considered a groundbreaking endeavor by global standards. A startling video demonstrates how such a surgery could be conducted, with the creators asserting that it could significantly extend human lifespan, while also raising concerns.

The company suggests employing artificial intelligence and robotics to transplant a patient’s brain and spinal cord into a donor body. They claim that this medical innovation could be ready for implementation in just eight years.

A US startup has claimed that their procedure could extend life beyond average expectancy, as the brain has the potential to survive several hundred years if the rest of the body remains youthful. However, experts criticized this assertion in MailOnline on Tuesday, dismissing it as a gross oversimplification and equating it to fantasy.

Additionally, in 2016, the European Association of Neurosurgical Societies’ legal service deemed human head transplantation unethical. While the organization lacks the legal power to prohibit such procedures, it does provide professional guidelines for neurosurgical practices.

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“The risks involved for the patient undergoing a head transplant [would] be enormous, including the risk of death,” they concluded at the time.

According to BrainBridge, such transplants could offer life-changing potential for patients with paralysis or spinal cord injuries, providing the chance to have a “fully functioning body.”

In the proposed system, the donor’s body—a brain-dead patient with a functioning body—and the recipient, whose head will be transplanted, must first be cooled to 5°C (41°F) to minimize “potential brain damage.”

Subsequently, an unspecified concentration of “artificial plasma solution” would be administered to both bodies to maintain oxygenation and prevent blood clotting.

The robotic surgery aims to “carefully” align the carotid and vertebral arteries, as well as the jugular veins—vessels that return deoxygenated blood from the head to the heart via the superior vena cava.

The recipient’s head is completely drained of blood to prevent thrombosis before being immediately connected to the donor’s circulatory system and infused with fresh, oxygenated blood.

Artificial intelligence algorithms are proposed to monitor muscles and nerves during the operation to ensure a seamless reconnection. Polyethylene glycol (PEG) and a specialized implant will be applied to the spinal fusion site to aid in the reconnection of severed neurons.

Facial muscles and soft tissues from the donor will be transplanted to minimize tissue rejection and rejuvenate the recipient’s face. After a month in intensive care, the comatose patient will be monitored and administered immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection of the donor’s body, allowing the brain to regain control.

The Dubai-based project leader, Hashem Al-Ghaili, stated:

“The goal of our technology is to push the boundaries of what is possible in medical science and provide innovative solutions for those struggling with life-threatening conditions.”

“Technology promises to open doors for life-saving treatments that were unimaginable a few years ago.”

The company is actively seeking and recruiting specialists to tackle these challenges, with the aspiration that revealing the concept will “draw in leading global experts eager to expand the frontiers of biomedical science and make a positive impact on the world.”

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Dr. Ahmad Al Khleifat, a neuroscientist at King’s College London, shared with MailOnline:

“There is no proof that head transplantation can be performed in humans. This indicates a significant underestimation of the complexity of brain function and the progression of these conditions, implying that this proposition might be in poor taste.”

Dr. Dean Burnett, a neuroscientist and honorary research associate at Cardiff University’s School of Psychology, remarked:

“I have encountered some extraordinary claims, but this one surpasses them all. It’s as if a collection of a dozen unlikely and absurd assertions were bundled together into one package.”

In addition, Dr. Karan Rangarajan, an NHS surgeon based in Hampshire, commented:

“When surgeons attach nerves to any body part, like in a hand transplant, it’s uncertain whether the nerves will operate normally afterward. Even if they do connect, any leakage or disconnection of these connections post-surgery could result in the patient’s immediate demise.”

He added: “If you unplug a human and turn off the switch, are you sure you’ll have the same person when you flip the switch again?”

Then, now and the Brave New World

From the presentation, it is understood that a Da Vinci-type device will be utilized. In the late 90s, NASA sought this technology for remote surgical interventions on astronauts.

Science fiction on the verge of becoming reality: This is the world's first head transplant machine 2

In Texas, a doctor shouts into the phone, “I’m Houston,” while astronauts, in a panic, run around their compartment yelling “May Day.” Meanwhile, a robot diligently continues its task, cutting away at the ailing commander. The image depicts a simplified version of the medical device.

The technology, now 30 years old, likely no longer exists, leaving us to only imagine what NASA currently has in its arsenal. Moreover, the need for a surgeon is diminishing as AI is poised to take over, performing tasks up to 10 times faster and reducing the duration of hypoxia in the brain.

Neuralink is tackling spinal cord fusion: upon reassembly of the spine, a sophisticated multi-channel electronic device is inserted into the spinal cord, initially ensuring the nervous system’s functionality. It might even succeed in correctly reconnecting all the axons.

Hence, science fiction is on the verge of becoming reality, if it hasn’t already. As clients from lower societal strata are receiving Botox injections, significant individuals for the Brave New World undergo head transplants, presumably from rapidly grown broiler clones. This presents civilization with both frightening and incredibly fascinating possibilities.

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