It sounds a plot line from a bad science fiction movie, but the world’s first head transplant could be a reality in just a few months, according to the project’s lead doctor.
Organ transplants are so common today, it’s easy to forget that they’re a very recent invention. The world’s very first heart transplant took place in 1967, but even before that doctors were researching whether a human head – and brain – could be moved onto a different body.
Transplanting a head isn’t much different from transplanting any other organ: doctors have to make sure the body is a good match, and be careful that it doesn’t reject the new head. They also need to keep a steady supply of blood pumping into the head to support the patient’s brain.
The final step involves fusing the spinal cord together, so the patient can hopefully control their new body like any other healthy person. There were a number of grisly early experiments that paved the way for modern researchers.
One scientist from Soviet Russia, Vladimir Demikhov, was famous for his organ transplant research on dogs. He performed a number of head transplants with the animals, including one that survived for 29 days.
Now an Italian doctor is planning to make history by transplanting a live human head. But an unexpected twist has delayed his plans…