Ambitious Chinese surgeon Dr. Xiaoping Ren who claims having performed around 1,000 head transplants on mice intends to carry out the same procedure on monkeys. His long-term aim is to extend the practice to humans. His statements have, unsurprisingly, received opposition from other researchers.
As reported by Wall Street Journal (WSJ), the mouse receiving the new head died shortly after the procedure; though, it did move and open its eyes before dying. Ren has indulged into this practice since 2013. Over the last 2 years, he has tested several types of techniques with the goal to extending the life span of the mice once the surgery is done. The longest the recipient mice have survived is one day.
In spite of such results, he believes that monkeys with transplanted heads will be able to “live and breathe on its own, at least for a little while.”
The donor and recipient mice had their circulatory systems connected via tiny tubes for oxygenated blood to pass from the brains to the new bodies. For monkeys, the procedure would be extremely complex and would require for the spinal nerve fibres to be linked.
According to Ren, this type of transplant surgery would revolutionise modern medicine, providing a ray of hope for those patients whose bodies have been damaged.
“We want to do this clinically, but we have to make an animal model with long-term survival first,” Ren told the WSJ. “Currently, I am not confident to say that I can do a human transplant.”
A bioethics professor Arthur Caplan, from New York University, not involved in the study, is completely against the concept.
“The whole idea is ridiculous,” has he exclaimed.
This is not the first time a surgeon has mentioned the crazy idea. Some time back, Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero revealed his ambition to perform the first human head transplant. Scientists, at large, have remained opponents of the idea though.