You’ve likely seen recent headlines proposing that human head transplants could be possible in the next couple of years. To catch you up to speed, the idea would likely involve attempting to transplant the head of patient with healthy, normal brain function but a damaged body onto the body of a brain-dead patient by severing the two spinal cords under controlled conditions and then joining them together.
But how feasible is this? Some experts are skeptical. Although research has progressed quite a bit in the last few decades, there are some hurdles to overcome for this type of surgery to be a success, and they’re big ones. Here are three things to think about- we’d love to hear your opinion!
#1- Scientists haven’t figured out how to reattach two parts of an injured spinal cord in ONE patient. This would be an amazing breakthrough in itself- can you imagine, spinal cord injuries and paralysis being easy fixes? There have been some incredible advances in animal research- read about dogs that are on the forefront of medical discovery, providing hope to patients with spinal cord injuries. But until doctors can completely fix a severed spinal cord within one patient’s body, many feel that it’s out of the realm of possibility to successfully attach two un-related spinal cords together.
#2- This proposed procedure is technically one big organ transplant. With heart, kidney, lung, and other organ transplants, organ rejection is a big hurdle to overcome. While there have been advances in medications and techniques to reduce the likelihood of organ rejection (read about horses and rabbits helping to reduce the risk of organ rejection), some researchers feel that this type of transplant is out of the question.
#3- Would a head transplant be ethical? This one is a question for YOU. What do you think?
What are some of the reservations you would have with this procedure? Do you think that human head transplants will be possible in the near future? Why or why not? If they’re even possible, do you think they should be attempted? We’d love to hear your opinions- post in the comments below!