The plan to ‘reawaken’ cryogenically frozen brains and transplant them into someone else’s skull – National Post

Posted: June 22, 2017 at 4:41 pm

Sergio Canavero, the Italian surgeon who audaciously plans to perform the worlds first human head transplant within the next 10 months (pending the availability of a donor body) is now preparing to reawaken cryogenically frozen brains and transplant them into someone elses skull.

In an interview with a German-language magazine, Canavero says he will attempt to bring the first brainsfrozen in liquid nitrogen at an Arizona-based cryogenics bank back to life not in 100 years, but three years at the latest.

Transplanting a brain only and not an entire head gets around formidable rejection issues, Canavero said, sincethere will be no need to reconnect and stitch up severed vessels, nerves, tendons and muscles as there is when a new head is fused onto abrain-dead donor body.

Canavero allows that one problematic issue with brain transplants, however, would be that no aspect of your original external body remains the same.

Your head is no longer there, your brain is transplanted into an entirely different skull, he told OOOM magazine, published by the same company that handles the Italian brain surgeonspublic relations.

The flamboyant neuroscientist who some ethicists have decried as nuts rattled the transplant world when he first outlined his plans for a human head transplant two years ago in the journal, Surgical Neurology International.

Bioethicist Arthur Caplan called Canaveros latest proposal to merge head transplants with resurrecting the frozen dead beyond ridiculous. People have their own doubts about whether anything can be salvaged from these frozen heads or bodies because of the damage freezing does, said Caplan, head of ethics at NYU Langone Medical Centre in New York City.

Then saying that he has some technique for making this happen, that has never been demonstrated in frozen animals, is absurd.

Caplan accused the maverick surgeon of playing to peoples fantasies, that somehow you can come back from death, fantasies that you can live forever if you just keep moving your head around and to fears science is out of control. Thats why I pay attention to him.

According to Canavero, the greatest technical hurdle to a head transplant is fusing the donor and recipients severed spinal cords, something never before achieved in humans, and restoring function, without causing massive, irreversible brain damage or death.

In an exclusive interview with the National Post last year, Canavero said what makeshisbrazen, and critics say ethically reckless, protocolpossible isa special fusogen, a waxy, glue-like substance developed by a young B.C.-born chemist that will be used to reconnect the severed spinal cord stumps and coax axons and neurons to regrow across the gap.

Canavero said the first head transplant will be performed in Harbin, China, and the surgical team led by Xiaoping Ren, a Chinese orthopedic surgeon who participated in the first hand transplant in the U.S. in 1999. Ren has been performing hundreds of head transplants in mice in preparation.

The first patient will be an unidentified Chinese citizen, and not, as originally planned, Valery Spiridonov, a 31-year-old Russian man who suffers from a rare and devastating form of spinal muscular dystrophy.

Canavero called Ren a close friend of mine and an extraordinarily capable surgeon.

At the moment, I can only disclose that there has been massive progress in medical experiments that would have seemed impossible even as recently as a few months ago, Canavero told OOOM. The milestones that have been reached will undoubtedly revolutionize medicine.

He declined to offer up exactly what those milestones are, saying that results of the most recent animal experimentshave been submitted for publication in renowned scientific medical journals.

Last September, the team reported they had succeeded in restoring functionality and mobility in mice with severed spinal cords using the special fusogen, dubbed Texas-PEG. Canavero claims the mice were able to run again.

Your head is no longer there, your brain is transplanted into an entirely different skull

He said numerous experiments have been conducted since then on an array of different animals in South Korea and China and the results are unambiguous: the spinal cord and with it the ability to move can be entirely restored, he told OOOM.

Canavero envisions the head (or, perhaps more accurately, body) grafting venture as a cure for people living with horrible medical conditions. The plan is to cut off the head of two people one, the recipient, the other, the donor whose brain is dead but whose body is otherwise healthy, an accident victim for example. Surgeons will then shift the recipients head onto the donor body using a custom-made swivel crane. They will have less than an hour to re-establish blood supply before risking irreversible brain damage.

In a few months we will sever a body from a head in an unprecedented medical procedure, Canavero said. At the moment of decapitation, the patient will be clinically dead. If we bring this person back to life, we will receive the first real account of what actually happens after death, he told the magazine, meaning, he said, whether there is an afterlife, a heaven, a hereafter or whatever you may want to call it or whether death is simply a flicking off of the light switch and thats it.

Canavero said a brain transplant has several advantages over a head-swap, including that there is barely any immune reaction, which means the problem of rejection does not exist. The brain is, in a manner of speaking, a neutral organ, he said.

Others are hugely skeptical of the prospect of reawakening brains, or bodies, frozen after death. In an interview with the Posts Joe OConnor two years ago, Eike-Henner Kluge, a bio-ethicist at the University of Victoria, refers to cryonics patients as corpsesicles.

Unless it is technically possible, and it is not, to replace all the water left in a bodys cells with glycol, unfreezing a frozen corpse will rupture the cell walls ensuring that you are mush a corpsesicle.

However, two years ago researchers with 21st Century Medicine, a California cryobiology research company, reported they had succeeded in freezing a rabbits brain using a flash-freezing technique to protect and stabilize the tissue. After the vitrified brains were rewarmed, electron microscope imaging from across the rabbit brains showed neurons and synapses were crisp and intact.

Canavero hopesto get his first brains from Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz. Alcors most famous patient is Red Sox baseball legend Ted Williams, the greatest hitter in baseball history, whose head was detached from his body and cryopreserved after his death at 83 in 2002.

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The plan to 'reawaken' cryogenically frozen brains and transplant them into someone else's skull - National Post

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