A team of Chinese scientists along with Italian surgeon Sergio Canavero, completed a successful head transplant by attaching the head of one rat onto a second larger one.
Their aims were to observe and monitor blood flow to the donor brain, in order to ensure normal functioning after the transplant, and to investigate the possibility that the foreign organ could be rejected by the recipient’s immune system.
Three rats were involved in the procedure; apart from the donor and the recipient, a third rat was used to ensure steady flow of blood to the brain of the donor head in order to keep oxygen levels up.
After the transplant was carried out, the donor head responded normally, blinking and showing signs of feeling pain, making the operation a successful one. The rodent was kept alive for some 36 hours.
Canavero became infamous on an international level after announcing his plans to complete a human head transplant by the end of 2017 and promoting this agenda through various TED talks. The Italian surgeon together with his collaborator, Xiaoping Ren from China’s Harbin Medical University, claim to have carried out several experiments on animals over the past few years, including the transplant of a monkey head onto a different body. However, none of these experiments were peer-reviewed and therefore remain yet to be proven.
Many professionals in the field of neuroscience have openly criticized Canavero’s plans as being controversial, especially since the operation would raise a number of ethical concerns.
“I would not wish this on anyone… there are a lot of things worse than death,” commented Hunt Batjer, from the American Association for Neurological Surgeons.
Others have expressed scepticism that the experiment would simply be unlikely to prove successful in humans.
The research paper on the experiment was published in the journal CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics.