It all depends on how you define “success”


Sergio Canavero has been blustering for years about how he’s going to do a complete human head transplant. His most recent shenanigans was the horrible two-headed rat, in which he decapitated a little rat, killed a big rat, and stitched the two circulatory systems together to allow the big rat’s heart to keep the little rat’s unconscious brain alive for a few hours. It was a stupid waste; the big problem is and always has been to reconnect a nervous system in a functional way, and he’s not even trying to do that.

But now he has announced that he has successfully transplanted the head from one human being onto the body of another. Successfully. What does he mean by that?

He has successfully transplanted the head from one human cadaver to the torso of another human cadaver. No word yet on whether the patient has recovered consciousness or how he is feeling.

Are you impressed yet?

What will impress me is when these gullible newsrags wake up and realize that Canavero is a fraud, and they stop giving him free press for every ghoulish act of necrophilia he commits.

Comments

  1. screechymonkey says

    That’s nothing. I’m reviving the art of alchemy and have figured out how to turn lead into gold!

    I start by taking 1,300 pounds of lead, selling it, and then I use the proceeds to buy an ounce of gold. Take that, scientific dogma!

  2. Owlmirror says

    You know, I imagine that there’s some course that med students take that goes into the history of medicine, including vivisection and such, and covers the basic idea described in Shelley’s Frankenstein, and maybe the teacher ends the lesson with something along the lines of: “. . . of course, nowadays, we understand why such crude manipulations of flesh cannot work and should not be tried.”

    And for most of the class, that’s probably enough.

    But I guess every once in a while there’s a student like Canavero who hears that line, and says: “Challenge accepted.”

  3. Owlmirror says

    PS: In the link to the Newsweek story, you are missing the “transplanted”. Maybe you could graft it in!

  4. says

    He has successfully transplanted the head from one human cadaver to the torso of another human cadaver.

    Maybe I just don’t get it, but I don’t see the point of doing this. How can you call any um, surgery, a success if you cannot gauge the reaction of the recipient? Like, if they stay alive or something.

  5. Raucous Indignation says

    No, no @2 and 3 Owlmirror, there is no such course in medical school. At least there wasn’t. But we do review the history of medicine and older treatment. One of the best medical texts, DeVita et al., systematically reviews all the prior research and cancer treatments which paved the way for the most current and modern treatments. Pretty sure the authors didn’t feel they had to tell us to NOT Frankenstein up the clinic.

  6. Mark Jacobson says

    Apparently all that’s needed for a successful transplantation is a needle and thread. I guess the eight years of education a doctor goes through is just faffing about.

  7. says

    I used to be a teaching assistant for med students, and sure, we had practice surgeries — on live (anesthetized) cats and rabbits. They developed useful skills for dealing with bleeds, suturing, monitoring and keeping the patient alive, all essential stuff. Of course they also worked on cadavers, but really, that’s totally different from living tissue.

  8. leerudolph says

    Caine@4: “How can you call any um, surgery, a success if you cannot gauge the reaction of the recipient? Like, if they stay alive or something.”

    Well…it stayed dead. That’s surely something!

  9. blf says

    I like the way the Grauniad put it, No, there hasn’t been a human ‘head transplant’, and there may never be (the emphasis is in the original):

    Call me a perfectionist if you must, but I genuinely think that any surgical procedure where the patients or subjects die before it even starts is really stretching the definition of “success” to breaking point. […] There’s still a way to go. You can weld two halves of different cars together and call it a success if you like, but if the moment you turn the key in the ignition the whole thing explodes, most would be hard pressed to back you up on your brilliance.

    And to the extent you can trust this quack, he claims an even more dubious step is next:

    Canavero claims that the next step will be to attempt a transplant with someone in a vegetative state or similar. He also claims to have plenty of volunteers for this. Exactly how coma patients actively volunteered for this radical procedure is anyone’s guess.

    Can you say “ethics”?

  10. chigau (違う) says

    Has this guy had any contact with Elon Musk?
    There should be someway to connect Mars and unconnected haids

  11. robro says

    In the past, medical researches sometimes tried new treatments on themselves first. Is Canavero ready to volunteer?

  12. michaelwbusch says

    @screechymonkey @1:

    That’s nothing. I’m reviving the art of alchemy and have figured out how to turn lead into gold!

    In undergraduate physics lab, I turned a bit of sodium into magnesium with a neutron source. It’s not that hard to turn lead into gold, via a series of neutron bombardments & radioactive decays; but it’s prohibitively expensive.

    Nuclear physics is easy compared to biology.

  13. says

    Comment #2 by Owlmirror said, “But I guess every once in a while there’s a student like Canavero who hears that line, and says: “Challenge accepted.”
    I believe the full quote should read; “Challenge accepted, hold my beer”

  14. Ice Swimmer says

    chigau @ 14

    Yeah, Musk shouldn’t leave it at stitching bodies and heads together. There should be Kaldanes and Rykors in Mars.

  15. mickll says

    I’ve heard of this, it’s called “rogue taxidermy,” used when making flabbits and wild haggises.

  16. pinguicula says

    I saw that hyperbolic story pop up on my phone and didn’t even look at it. I did however did just read about the first face transplant at the mayo clinic (I mention it as it involves at least part of the head) and am astounded at the achievement, the intersection of incredible technical medical skill, identity, life and death make for an emotional read.

  17. komarov says

    Maybe it’s a novel approach to clinical trials. Since the dead patients successfully remained dead this will be used to argue that it is time to move on to live patients. How else is Canavero supposed to learn anything new and advance medicine?

  18. says

    Mengele allegedly experimented with cross-joining children’s circulatory systems. I will not post a reference – it’s the stuff of nightmares. That asshole has problems. Serious problems. What he’s doing is obscene.

  19. Owlmirror says

    The article in the Telegraph is Premium. Fortunately, my library allows me access to newspaper articles, including the Telegraph, but there is a delay of a couple of days before the articles enter the database, and I didn’t read the full thing until today.

    I joked about Frankenstein, but so did many of Canavero’s colleagues. So . . . Canavero said: “They called me crazy, a lunatic, Frankenstein. But Frankenstein was a very ethical man by the way.”

    It is troubling, and perhaps very telling, that Canavero either didn’t read the book (or a review, or even the Wikipedia page) and just made up something about Victor von Frankenstein from out of his arse, or has such poor reading comprehension that he actually thinks that Frankenstein, as depicted in the narrative, could possibly be described as having been ethical.

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