New Scientist has an article titled 5 things you're dying to ask about head transplants. Yeah, someone said we can expect to be able to do head transplants in a few years, so the media are all wound up and asking stupid questions. Here are the questions New Scientist thought were really important.
What’s the difference between brain and head transplants?
Could the transplant technique work for a cryogenically frozen head?
Would the surgery be psychologically damaging?
I’m a registered organ donor. Could my body be used for this?
There’s one more. It’s so stupid and misleading that I had to single it out.
Would there be any benefits apart from getting a healthier body?
If the recipient head is older than the donor body, they may get a rejuvenating boost. Infusions of young blood can raise physical endurance and cognitive function in older animals. A study is now seeing if young blood has the same effect on people with Alzheimer’s.
Look. Transplanting your head to another body would involve severing your spinal cord. We do not have a way to repair damaged spinal cords in any reliable, significant way; there have been a few promising leads that hint at partial restoration of function in spinal cord injuries, but no, you would not be getting a healthier body. You would be getting an inert, insensate, 150 pound organic life support system attached to your isolated head. The physical endurance of your body is relatively irrelevant if it’s paralyzed.
The guy who is proposing this surgery, Sergio Canavero, is making exaggerated claims for spinal regeneration that are not supported by any credible scientific evidence. He’s claiming that the patients would be able to walk within a year.
It’s all bullshit.
Do it in mice first; if it’s as simple as fusing cleanly cut ends of the nervous system with ethylene glycol, I’d expect to see at least a preliminary demonstration in animal models. It hasn’t been done.