Dr. Xiaoping Ren, otherwise known as “Doctor Frankenstein” in China, claims he and colleagues will perform the first human head transplant next year.
Speaking on the specifics of the procedure with the New York Times, Dr. Ren said the surgery would consist of removing two heads from two bodies and attaching the donor body to the beneficiary’s head. In particular, a metal plate would be implanted to stabilize the neck and the spinal cord nerve endings would be soaked in a glue-like material to foster regrowth.
“We are getting closer to our goal of a human head transplant,” Dr. Ren told the Daily Mail. “We can’t say it will happen tomorrow – but I am not ruling out next year.”
STAYING A “HEAD” OF THE COMPETITION
In 2015, the Chinese government invested a whopping 1.42 trillion renminbi, $216 billion, in research and development in an effort to become the world’s leader in scientific innovation. By contrast, the country invested a mere 245 billion renminbi in scientific research in 2005.
Whether or not Dr. Ren performs the operation, leading medical experts have condemned the procedure.“For most people, it’s at best premature and at worst reckless,” said James L. Bernat, professor of neurology at Dartmouth Medical School in Lebanon, New Hampshire.
During an interview in November, Dr. Huang Jiefu, a former deputy minister of health in China, noted the procedure is “scientifically impossible,” since whenever the spine is severed, it cannot be reconnected. “Ethically it’s impossible,” Dr. Huang said. “How can you put one person’s head on another’s body?”
Adding to widespread condemnation of the project, Cong Yali, a medical ethicist at Peking University, criticized Dr. Ren for drawing negative publicity to China. “I don’t want to see China’s scholars, transplant doctors and scientists deepening the impression that people have of us internationally, that when Chinese people do things they have no bottom line — that anything goes.”
Others have criticized China’s medical establishment in general for its lack of transparency. “The Chinese system is not transparent in any way,” said Arthur L. Caplan, a medical ethicist at New York University. “I do not trust Chinese bioethical deliberation or policy. Add healthy doses of politics, national pride and entrepreneurship, and it is tough to know what is going on.”
A GOOD HEAD ON SHOULDERS
Although the potential operation has received condemnation from the medical community at large, it has plenty of volunteers, such as Valery Spiridonov, 31, who suffers from severe muscular atrophy. In an article for the Daily Mail, Spiridonov said:
“A human head transplant will be a new frontier in science. Some people say it is the last frontier in medicine. It is a very sensitive and very controversial subject but if we can translate it to clinical practice, we can save a lot of lives.”
Before conducting the operation on a monkey, Dr. Ren performed an estimated 1,000 head transplants on mice, sometimes attaching the head of a white mouse onto the body of a black mouse. None of the mice survived longer than a day.
Dr. Ren purports that transplanting a monkey’s head takes around 20 hours. He anticipates a human head transplant will take anywhere from 30 to 40 hours. SOURCE