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Thread: Is a Human Brain Transplant possible?

  1. #1 Is a Human Brain Transplant possible? 
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    I've heard of a head transplant before. But what about actually transferring the brain of one human into the body of another? A body that is much healthier and younger. I've read that the brain can adapt to any organ, so rejection from the new body shouldn't be a problem.




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  3. #2  
    not ADM!N grmpysmrf's Avatar
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    A head transplant? do you mean a face transplant? I've never heard of a head transplant.

    as far as brain transplant I think aside from trying to keep the brain alive while it's being switched you'd also have the shock of hooking it back up which may damage it. Also, would gender matter? could you hook up a male brain to a female body and still feel the same things even though a male brain isn't wired to menstruate or connect to a clitoris, produce milk or even breasts and all of the other hormones that go along with the female body

    Sci Fi thread bound me thinks.


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  4. #3  
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    With current tech, not going to happen. Getting the thousands (millions? honestly, I have no real idea how many external nervous connections the brain has, but its a lot) of tiny nerve fibers to reconnect would be a huge hurdle. Perhaps with some future nanotech it might be doable, hordes of tiny machines rebuilding large numbers of connections simultaneously. grmpysmrf is correct, this is essentially science fiction.

    Still, I can't help wondering. How much of a person's personality is dictated by the brain alone, and how much comes from the body that brain resides in? Differences in hormone levels, gender, and so on would surely make some difference.
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    I'd be more inclined to think that different versions of stem cell therapies would be a better approach. Whether you wanted to improve the neural connections into and beyond the spine or within the brain itself, I'd think targeted implants of stem cells would be more desirable. Especially seeing as the newer technologies coming through current research mean that we'll soon be able to circumvent all those rejection issues by modifying a person's own cells in much the same way as we often use our own blood for transfusions now - at least when we get the chance to do it for elective procedures.

    By soon, I mean a decade or so for initial attempts, two decades to develop and extend particular procedures. By that time, I'd expect that we'd be able to avoid transplants in many instances for things like liver, lung, heart, kidney disease and to do things we can't currently do, like a replacement pancreas for patients with Type 1 diabetes. After that for extending similar procedures to less common events.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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    Forum Masters Degree LuciDreaming's Avatar
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    I've never heard of head transplant happening - where have you seen that? As for a brain transplant - the tech just doesn't exist. Also the OP seems to be suggesting that an old person might have their brain transplanted into a younger body. Supposing you were able to take your brain out and put it in a younger body you wouldn't be taking your "you" with it intact and become the same old you in a newer body. As Adelady has said stem cell research for renewal and repair would be a more likely scenario.
    "And we should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh" Nietzsche.
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by LuciDreaming View Post
    I've never heard of head transplant happening - where have you seen that?
    He might be referring to the infamous 1960's fad of grafting a second head onto an animal. Reports of two-headed dogs and rats hit the headlines in the late '60s and early '70s. I think the Soviets did a two-headed dog first, and that sparked a bit of an "arms race" in "head transplants." I don't think a whole lot was learned, other than that the blood-brain barrier is pretty good at defeating an immune response.
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    ▼▼ dn ʎɐʍ sıɥʇ ▼▼ RedPanda's Avatar
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    I have encountered quite a few brain donors.
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  9. #8  
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    Oh well. Scrub my stem cell idea for now. Was talking to our neurologist today - about the lack of any treatment or preventive options for my dying nerves. I suggested that there were too few people suffering my rather rare condition to pursue it, but the paraplegic and quadraplegic associations would surely drive the research for any possible use of stem cells to revive the spine.

    He reluctantly said that he was pretty sure we'd only need a couple of decades to make replacement portions of liver, lung, kidney, heart and the like. After all he said, they're just big lumps of cells in the first place. He reckons doing anything really useful and effective for physically small and operationally delicate structures like nerves, even the long ones in your legs, with stem cells means we need some kind of breakthrough in discovering some other way to make them or decades of refining techniques and procedures that are, at least for now, best suited to growing a clump of cells to reinvigorate a bigger clump of cells. And we don't yet know how well they'll do that. Personally I'm quite confident that's the way of the future for liver, lungs and heart. Brain and nervous system? Will have to wait further notice.
    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill
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  10. #9  
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    If you have heard that the brain can "adapt to any organ" that is nonsense. We don't even know how to connect one nerve to another. They are not like wires. They are alive. Nerves are cells with long thin extentions that reach out to connect with either muscle cells or sense organ cells or other nerves. When you cut a nerve the part away from the "body" of the cell may just die. But this is not immediate and sometimes the cell parts can reconnect. Some times the cut off part dies but the body of the cell regrows along the same track, sometimes it fails to regrow. A cut nerve generally means loss of function.
    The cranial nerves don't go into the spinal cord so a head transplant is possible but the second head would have not nervous connection with the body and would be just a parasite.
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  11. #10  
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    I guess a head could be transplanted onto a new body, but the spinal column would not be able to be connected. So the head might live, but be unable to communicate very easily, nor could it move its new body in any way. Essentially, the new body would just act as a 'life' support system for the transplanted head, which would in theory be able to think see and hear, but do little else, as the body would be paralysed. Having said all that, what do the heart lungs and other organs require from a brain in order to function? Can they operate without any control from the brain or brain stem?
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    You're not thinking of "The X-Files: I Want to Believe" are you? That movie had a head transplant in it.
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    Monkey head transplantation had been done in 1970 and 2001 by group of scientists led by neurosurgeon Robert J. White from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland Ohio in which the first was said to be success to some extent and the second one was reported as successful. The operation involved cauterizing arteries and veins carefully while the head was being severed to prevent hypovolemia. Because the nerves were left entirely intact, connecting the brain to a blood supply kept it chemically alive.


    The majority of neurosurgeons believe that head transplantation in humans will be possible in the near future. The procedure would most likely involve cooling the brain to the point where all neural activity stops. This is to prevent neurons from dying while the brain is being transplanted.It will be a risky procedure but still supporters note that the brain, unlike the liver for example, is an immunologically sound organ; there is no risk of the new body rejecting it. Ethical considerations, however, have thus far prevented any attempt by surgeons to transplant a human being's head.


    There is a large debate over this issue. Researchers on this aspect say it would be beneficial for those who would prefer to live as quadriplegic rather than dying. The operation foresees duadriplegic effect to the patient due to the fact that technology effect to reattach the severed spinal cord has not yet been developed.


    The scientists had started working on this research and remained unstoppable to pursue doing this procedure to human being so with the advent of science, though head transplants are a step too far, yet the possibility of this procedure is foreseeable but the great concern will be on the length of survival after the procedure plus the ethical concern over this will be most likely the very tough issue involved. Definitely, many will accept to be quadriplegic than to die- there is no question about that. So the big question will be: who will be the head donor? What grounds will then be acceptable to donate head? Really I cannot figure it out but who knows, there might be resolutions to this to make way for human head transplantation to become a reality.
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  14. #13  
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    Hi Daecon, No, I've never seen that one.

    lalivt74, surely you would require a body donor, not a head donor, because the head is the person is it not? The body has no consciousness or soul itself and is just the machinery to support the brain isn't it?

    This all reminds me of the excellent and shocking scene in Alien, [spoiler alert, but it's a very long time ago], where Ash tries to kill Ripley. Parker the engineer smashes Ash's head from his body and it is suddenly revealed that Ash is actually a robot. Having managed to disable Ash, Ripley then wires 'his' head up to interrogate it to find out if there is any way to defeat the alien.

    Absolutely brilliant stuff - very well acted and very believable. And before the days of CGI too.

    OB
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  15. #14  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope cosmictraveler's Avatar
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    It has been done.............


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  16. #15  
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    Simple.

    You just chop of the heads of two people and sew them on to the other person really fast.
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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zimmery "Reece Ran" Mac View Post
    I've read that the brain can adapt to any organ, so rejection from the new body shouldn't be a problem.
    Well that's not true at all. Anything that presents antigens (like, say, the lining of the blood vessels in the brain) can be targeted by a host immune system.

    You have three problems:
    1) We don't know how to reconnect nerves
    2) We don't know how to suppress the immune system in allografts very well (although we've been getting better at it)
    3) We don't know how to support the brain during the switchover, which will not be very rapid.
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  18. #17  
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    What would actually be required to keep a brain alive during a transplant? Would it just need a supply of oxygenated blood carrying nutrients, or would it need more? If it only needed blood, then would this be possible using similar methods used in heart transplants?
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  19. #18  
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    Yes, they are. There have been semi-successful experiment with monkey full head transplant and they stayed alive and in control of the new host body for up to 30 minutes. I am sure in the future it may be done successfully and later on humans. Unless, of course, the morality-police don't hinder medical progress.

    Just google "monkey head transplant".
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  20. #19  
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    monkey full head transplant and they stayed alive and in control of the new host body for up to 30 minutes
    The wiki and BBC reports on the two experiments don't say that there was any control of any part of the body other than the head/ brain system itself.

    Number 1. Head transplant - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The procedure was a success to some extent, with the animal being able to smell, taste, hear, and see the world around it. The operation involved cauterizing arteries and veins carefully while the head was being severed to prevent hypovolemia. Because the nerves were left entirely intact, connecting the brain to a blood supply kept it chemically alive. The animal survived for some time after the operation, even at times attempting to bite some of the staff.

    Number 2
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/1263758.stm

    the monkey was conscious, and that it could see, hear, taste and smell because the nerves were left intact in the head.
    In both cases the main advantage the researchers spoke of that the procedure was suitable for people who were already quadriplegic but whose body/ organs were failing and for people who'd rather be quadriplegic than dead.

    No suggestion that they had any prospect at all of making the brain control the body without entirely separate, and impossible for the time being, procedures to connect functional nerves in the spine.
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  21. #20  
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    I have met a few people that, IMHO, could have benefited from having a brain transplant from a monkey.

    I guess the thing that bothers me about it is why anybody would want to bother with it?
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