At least Canavero isn’t comparing himself to Galileo yet

Just Frankenstein. Reader blf tracked down some information about Surgical Neurology International, where Canavero and his pals are having a grand time publishing shoddy science about head transplants. The journal has a complicated, messy history, with a mix of credible scientific papers and far-right-wing fringe conspiracy theories. That ought to make you question the source right there.

By the way, Canavero has a new paper there: HEAVEN: The Frankenstein effect.

The HEAVEN head transplant initiative needs human data concerning the acute restoration of motor transmission after application of fusogens to the severed cord in man. Data from two centuries ago prove that a fresh cadaver, after hanging or decapitation, can be mobilized by electrical stimulation for up to 3 hours. By administering spinal cord stimulation by applied paddles to the cord or transcranial magnetic stimulation to M1 and recording motor evoked potentials, it should be possible to test fusogens in fresh cadavers. Delayed neuronal death might be the neuropathological reason.

He sounds like he’d be fun at parties, doesn’t he?

I don’t get the point of this experiment. The question isn’t whether you can get an electrical current to jump the gap, crossing a lesion in the spinal cord; that’s trivial. The question is whether his fusogens promote active, specific regrowth of nerve fibers across the lesion, and you won’t get that by shocking corpses. It might have been an interesting observation 250 years ago when Luigi Galvani was shocking dead frogs, but it’s not something that needs to be tested now.

It’s also a rather pointless paper. He hasn’t done any of these experiments, but is just arguing that we should do them. Save that for the IRB. It shouldn’t count as a publication.


  1. brucegee1962 says

    Look, we all know that brain reattachment isn’t even a type of surgery that Dr. McCoy was able to perform in the 25th century — at least, not unless he was hooked up to an alien machine that made him a whole lot smarter, in which case he could do the entire operation “at warp speed.”

    Wait, hold on. You’re telling me that “Spock’s Brain” is not a documentary? Not even a particularly good episode? Oh. Never mind.

  2. blf says

    Dr FrankensteinCanavero does come very close to comparing himself to Galileo. In Human head transplantation. Where do we stand and a call to arms (in that awful “journal”), he and co-author Xiaoping Ren write (I have omitted the references):

    Ever since being announced in 2013, the HEAVEN head transplant initiative — also known as allogeneic head body reconstruction, the GEMINI spinal cord fusion protocol and the first head transplant procedures in mice have received scathing remarks from several official medical, surgical, and ethical bodies.

    Medical history shows us that many of the “quantum leaps” almost always fly in the face of conventional wisdom. Today’s standard of care was yesterday’s experimental treatment, and before that, in many cases, it was one man’s visionary idea. The history of medicine includes many examples of ideas that were initially ridiculed or rejected by the medical establishment but that later became widely adopted, thanks to the courage of researchers and clinicians who stood by their ideas, often in the face of withering criticism from their colleagues. Notable examples would include Semmelweiss (antiseptic handwashing), Gruentzig (balloon angioplasty), Rous (viruses and cancer), Marshall (Helicobacter pylori and ulcer), Prusiner (prions), Pasteur (germs), Mendel (heredity), and many others. The last in the list is HEAVEN.

    As least one of the readers does all but compare the mad scheme to Galileo, amusingly getting things badly wrong:

    As from the time people believed the world was flat to the persecution by the church of Galileo for his beliefs in a round world […], these are all discoveries that will generate new knowledge of life and its existence and the universe.

    Another amusing aside. All but one(?) of the short paper’s references refer to other papers by one or both authors.

    The paper itself is gibberish, and comes rather close to the classic they-persecuted-Galileo whine: “Hence, we thank this journal and its editor in allowing us to make its readership apprised of this simple fact: that academic arrogance once again is stifling scientific innovation.”

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    IIRC, Mendal was witheringly ignored – no one had the foresight to immortalize their name by mocking him.

  4. militantagnostic says

    Don’t be so hard on Canavero. Somebody has to figure out what to do with all those frozen heads at Alcor.

  5. wzrd1 says

    OK, let’s see if I got the gist of what he blathered on about in that paper, a paper unfit for use in the toilet.
    Not every neuron dies at once. Gotya. Some can last for days and days and days, without benefit of glucose or oxygen. Uh, huh.
    Nerves in the spinal cord can magically be fixed with PEG.
    Every other point, hand waving.
    Oh, also cite Mary Shelley.

    Seriously, I wouldn’t trust that guy to change the channel on my television set.
    And someone’s actually paying this joker to produce this drivel?!

  6. says

    Maybe he is trolling the rich and stupid, trying to get them to pay him to cut their own heads off. It was a perfect scheme until it was ruined by you meddling kids! He might have bagged Kurzweil.

    I wonder where they expect to get all the donors? It’s sort of hard to find body donors that are more or less intact except for the head. Unless they expect to have a donor van following behind all the helmetless idiots in Pennsylvania who ride motorcycles (because: freedom!)

  7. blf says

    I wonder where they expect to get all the [body] donors?

    Some very quick searching — apologies, I need to leave soon — suggest, initially, from brain-dead car accident victims and similar (with lots of hand-waving there, e.g., how many bodies are matches and reasonably intact and permission can be obtained?), but, ultimately, from “clones”. Seriously. Geesh!

  8. says

    It’s like he mistook “The Chessmen of Mars” for a documentary.

    Presumably they’re going to breed rykors in underground caves, so the khaldanes can use their bodies.