An Italian surgeon claims to have successfully performed a monkey head transplant alongside a team of Chinese scientists at a university in Harbin.
According to New Scientist, the experiment was carried out at the Harbin Medical University in China. The researchers connected the blood supply between the head and the new body, but did not connect the spinal cord.
“The monkey fully survived the procedure without any neurological injury of whatever kind,” Dr. Canavero said. The monkey was only kept alive for 20 hours following the procedure for ethical reasons.
In order to perform the surgery, both a donor and patient need to have their heads cleanly and delicately separated from their bodies and the nerve cell membranes preserved by a glue-like substance called polyethylene glycol (PEG).
Canavero says the experiment, which repeats the work of Robert White in the US in 1970, demonstrates that if the head is cooled to 15 °C, a monkey can survive the procedure without suffering brain injury.
Many in the scientific community, however, at the way in which Canavero has gone public with his results before they have been reviewed by other scientists. “It’s science through public relations”; says Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University School of Medicine. “When it gets published in a peer-reviewed journal I’ll be interested. I think the rest of it is BS.“
Dr. Canavero is now seeking funds to perform a head transplant to 31-year-old Russian patient Valery Spriridonov, who has a genetic muscle-wasting disease.
[Images via New Scientist]