Human brain transplant: is it possible and what problems may arise
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Even if the technical difficulties of brain transplantation are overcome, there are still ethical considerations for the expediency of such actions.
Transplantology has come a long way in recent decades, although this scientist had to go a long, hard way to successfully transplant organs. They are already transplanting hearts and livers, and even a face can be transplanted. But scientists believe that a brain transplant, if ever, will take place, then definitely not in the near future. There are both technical difficulties and, to a greater extent, ethical considerations. If the former can be overcome, then the ethical side of the issue is not so simple, writes Live Science.
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Will it ever be possible to transplant the brain of one person into another?
Scientists believe that it will take a very long time before the first human brain transplant occurs. Unless, of course, scientists generally agree to carry out such operations.
It's also about the ethical side of the issue. In fact, a brain transplant is actually a transplant of the whole body. That is, is it necessary to save the life of one person with the help of a complete donor body, or should the organs of this donor go to several people? On the other hand, the brain is such a complex organ that connects to the spinal cord, and any violations can lead to rejection and death of the theoretical patient.
Theoretically, the brain can be transplanted along with the head without removing it from the skull. Experiments on animals, when they were transplanted with a second head, have already been carried out. But most of these animals lived from a few hours to several days. In the most unique cases, such animals lived for a couple of months.
“In the past, some transplantologists have said that transplanting a human brain is a matter of the near future. But I don’t think that any surgeon or scientist will take it up. I don’t think that this will happen,” says Fredrik Meyer, a neurosurgeon from Mayo Clinic, Rochester, USA.
Head transplantation in animals: a brief history
Scientists have never attempted to transplant animals with a brain separately from the head. The brain is a soft organ that can easily be damaged. Also, after the transplant, a lot of nerves in the skull would have to be connected, which is incredibly difficult. Therefore, scientists carried out transplantation of the whole head of different animals.
The first such transplant took place in 1908. Scientists Alexis Carrel and Charles Guthrie transplanted the head of one dog into another dog and got a two-headed creature. But it survived only a few hours after the operation.
In 1954, Soviet scientist Vladimir Demikhov experimented with transplanting the upper body of dogs into other dogs. Such two-headed creatures lived only a few days. But one creature managed to live as long as 29 days. During their short lives, these two-headed dogs were able to drink water and their heads responded to visual stimuli. But the immune system began to reject the foreign body, which led to the death of the animals.
In the 70s of the last century, the American neurosurgeon Robert White conducted experiments on transplanting only heads, without the upper body, to rhesus monkeys. He connected exactly two heads together. These two-headed monkeys could chew and swallow food, and could also follow the movements of objects with their eyes. But these creatures were paralyzed because their spinal cords were not functioning normally. All of these monkeys died within 36 hours of the operation.
The problem with head transplantation
Now scientists have learned to deal with the rejection of foreign bodies in the human body with the help of special drugs. Scientists have also learned how to connect blood vessels when restoring damaged limbs and organs. Theoretically, such a procedure can help with a successful human head transplant so that blood continues to supply the brain.
For example, Chinese scientist Xiaoping Ren conducted an experiment on mice 7 years ago. He connected the head of one mouse to the head of a second mouse, and the connection worked. This happened due to the fact that the scientist cut one of the two jugular veins and carotid arteries and connected them to the head of the second mouse. The first mouse did not experience any disturbances. But this animal didn't live too long either.
As far as human brain transplants are concerned, the problem of cutting and reattaching the spinal cord remains. Scientists have no evidence that in this case the spinal cord can function normally. There is another problem: how to prevent the loss of oxygen supply to the brain during and immediately after surgery? It is known that brain cells without oxygen begin to die after 5 minutes.
And as for the ethical side of transplanting a head or brain to a person. Six years ago, the European Association of Neurosurgical Societies declared human head transplantation unethical. Although this statement is advisory in nature, nevertheless, neurosurgeons have described this theoretical operation as the one that will most likely lead to the death of the patient.
As Focus already wrote, scientists have created a wireless brain implant , which is able to destroy a cancerous tumor in 15 days.
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