back to article Modern-day Frankenstein invents CURE for BEHEADING

Italian scientists claim they have invented a method for carrying out a head transplant - a discovery that could prove life-changing for patients suffering from hitherto incurable diseases. Boffins at the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group claim to have devised a new way to connect the brain to the spinal column. The …

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  1. Anonymous Coward 15

    We have a Ship of Theseus problem here.

  2. hi_robb

    Hmmm.

    Thanks for the headsup...

    D

    1. wowfood
      Joke

      Re: Hmmm.

      If this new procedure fails, I'm sure heads will roll.

    2. James Micallef Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Hmmm.

      So technically it isn't really a head transplant, it's more of a whole-body transplant?

    3. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Re: Hmmm.

      Eye see what you did there.

  3. Urh
    Trollface

    I'll make the obvious comment.

    Anybody care to volunteer for this procedure?

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: I'll make the obvious comment.

      Jarheads?

      1. dssf

        Re: I'll make the obvious comment.

        LOL... Reminds me of what I used to hear Marines say to us Sailors way back when, during PT:

        "No pain, no gain."

        But, someone replied, to dissuade excessive incurred pain:

        "No brain, no pain."

        Sailors late on return to the ship (UA, Unauthorized Absentee) would be admonished to "think with their other head, the one on the top of their shoulders"...

        SO, that has me thinking: For a below-the-neck pentapalegic male (yes, that 5th limb), getting a new body means being able to use his head (the one on his shoulder) to possible new dimensions, but, hopefully not to new dementias...

        I wonder whether the team doing the first procedure will, in unison, hail, "EEEETSSS SAA LYYYVE! EEEETSSS SAAA LYYYYVVVVEEEE!"

    2. Zaphod.Beeblebrox

      Re: I'll make the obvious comment.

      Wonder if it works as well when *adding* a head - if so, I'm in!

  4. LesB
    WTF?

    How to get ahead, errr a head

    Surely it's a body transplant rather than a head transplant? Well, for those of us who keep their brains in their heads, anyway...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How to get ahead, errr a head

      True, and I imagine they'll be eyeing up Death Row in certain parts of the world as a ready source of donors. Yuck.

      1. Ledswinger Silver badge

        Re: How to get ahead, errr a head

        Save money on keeping 'em in jail ('cos death row generally lasts for years and costs a fortune in appeals and legal costs).

        Mind you, if it were you on death row, would you be willing to let your body live on, rather than none of you?

      2. Captain DaFt

        Re: How to get ahead, errr a head

        " True, and I imagine they'll be eyeing up Death Row in certain parts of the world as a ready source of donors. Yuck. "

        Don't need'em, just clone a headless version of yourself, and good to go! Of course, it'll be an adult head on an infant body, but you'll grow up, again.

        Headless clones:

        http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,138483,00.html

  5. TeeCee Gold badge

    Brings a whole new meaning to....

    ....."an old head on young shoulders".

  6. darklordsid

    Quick, quick, someone please do an urgent head transplant on Ballmer, being the old w8 head obviously defective. A rhesus head would be a welcome improvement!

  7. Alexander Giochalas
    Coat

    Canavero...

    or is it Cadavero?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

      Re: Canavero...

      or is it Cadavero?

      It's pronounced FRONKENSTEEN!

  8. Frankee Llonnygog

    Next milestone

    An 'ass' transplant. Urgently needed, given the epidemic of LMFAO

  9. MJI Silver badge

    Spinal repairs

    Now this is the usefull bit.

    I am sure a paraplegic would rather walk using their original body than have someone elses.

    1. Stacy
      Thumb Up

      Re: Spinal repairs

      That's just what I was thinking...

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: Spinal repairs

        I used to know a tetraplegic who would have loved that.

        Spinal nerve repairs are as far as I am concerned a huge priority for the medical profession.

        1. Rampant Spaniel

          Re: Spinal repairs

          iirc when communication between the brain and body is severed you end up with a significantly shorter lifespan for many reasons. It's great they are looking at this as many people, even with the ability to repair spinal cord damage (which we don't realistically have as a surgical option yet) will not help everyone. At least now, when our ability to fully repair cord damage becomes an option we will have the rest of the knowledge we need to help people.

          It's tempting to poke holes, it's easy to do so, but we have so much we don't know and work like this, however impractical it may seem, is very important as it forms part of a bigger picture and as we slowly fill in the gaps we begin to be able to beat previously insurmountable problems. I remember talking with professors at college maybe 15 years ago and they were sure we couldn't beat AIDS or Diabetes. As it stands we are damn close to a practical cure for AIDS, we have a workable treatment for AIDS and we can actually cure type 2 Diabetes. I'm sure my grandkids will laugh at how primitive things were in 'our day', but it's very reassuring to know we have people batshit crazy enough to take on something as potentially unpopular and possibly career ending as head transplants, yet talented enough to make progress. How many of our soldiers who fell victims of ied's could use this treatment?

    2. James Micallef Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Spinal repairs

      Re: "I am sure a paraplegic would rather walk using their original body than have someone elses."

      I am sure a paraplegic would rather walk.

  10. pavsmith
    Big Brother

    OH MY GOD! NOW THE ILLUMINATI WILL HAVE A WAY OF LIVING FOREVER!

    Whole farms of healthy young people will be bred specifically to be "rootstock" for our once and future rulers!

    That does it. I'm running for the hills...

    1. Steve the Cynic Silver badge

      Re: rootstock

      See episode 1 of season 1 of Métal Hurlant Chronicles for a creepier version of this.

    2. MacroRodent Silver badge

      re A WAY OF LIVING FOREVER!

      I'm afraid the transplant would not necessarily help so much in any immortality project. The old head on a new body would still be susceptible to dementia, brain tumours etc. The stress caused by the transplant would probably even make things worse for the head.

  11. harimanjaro

    So many possibilities

    "But... before the operation I was a man!

    Wait... don't worry, these look fun..."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So many possibilities

      AFAIK you don't need a head transplant for that one.

      But you do need the sharp knife..

    2. AndrueC Silver badge

      Re: So many possibilities

      But... before the operation I was a man!

      Robert Heinlein

      Not a bad book really. A bit saucy in places and the ending is slightly bizarre but worth a read.

      Update: "The story takes place about 2015 AD". Wow. I didn't realise that. Adds a new poignancy to this article.

      Damn. My copy doesn't have this saucy cover.. I missed all the good covers when I was a teenager.

  12. Eguro

    Any report on the future direction of the project?

    Cybermen or Futurama-Head-Jars?

  13. Ralph B
    Terminator

    Richard Herring's Ideal Woman

    This news has no relevance to young Richard Herring:

    - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHOUnsYSaLA

  14. Montreux

    Is it April 1st?

    We can't currently repair damaged nerves in humans. It would a Nobel prize level achievement if you worked out how to do it. So head transplants are just nonsense.

    1. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      "We can't currently repair damaged nerves in humans"

      Seems like this may be a way to do it?

      Really sharp knife, short length of nerve from a donor (or elsewhere in the body - like skin for a skin graft) and glue in (for want of a better description) a bypass round the damaged nerve.

      IANAS(urgeon) but it seems like IF the body transplant can work, then a nerve repair SHOULD be a much simpler technique.

    2. Goldmember

      Re: Is it April 1st?

      Even if nerve repair isn't possible, there are still uses for this. I watched a documentary on Robert White's experiments a few years ago (very interesting by the way, and it even showed a video of the monkey waking up with a new body, albeit completely paralysed). One application brought up in the documentary was the scenario of a paraplegic whose brain was still intact and functional, but whose body was failing. The could be given the body of a brain dead person and go on living.

      If nothing else, it is another sky fairy myth-dispelling tool, proving that 'souls', which many religions die when the head is removed, are non-existent.

      Minor article correction by the way; the idea wasn't to keep both monkeys alive. One was always going to be killed and be the body 'donor' for the other one, which is part of the reason the experiment was so controversial, and practically ruined Robert White's career.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is it April 1st?

        "[he] could be given the body of a brain dead person and go on living."

        "I made it! I'm alive! ...Why do I look like Glenn Beck?!!?"

      2. John 110
        Joke

        Re: Is it April 1st?

        @Goldmember

        "If nothing else, it is another sky fairy myth-dispelling tool, proving that 'souls', which many religions die when the head is removed, are non-existent."

        That's Highlander you're thinking of...

    3. NumptyScrub

      Re: Is it April 1st?

      quote: "We can't currently repair damaged nerves in humans. It would a Nobel prize level achievement if you worked out how to do it. So head transplants are just nonsense."

      From the article: "Last month, researchers at Cleveland University managed to heal rats with broken spines, allowing them to control their bladders once again. The doctors successfully encouraged nerves to grow between two fractured sections of spine."

      Dunno about you, but that sounds like being able to encourage the growth of nerve tissue between 2 sections of spine in a human is potentially acheivable to me. For head transplants, you just have the tissue rejection issue inherent in all transplants, and also the issue that you cannot guarantee that nerves are going to reconnect in the right places. Do human spines really have identically placed nerve clusters so that your brain impulses that used to control your left arm, will still control your left arm post-transplant?

      Sadly I do not think this will be the case, and that you'll end up thrashing like a newborn until you relearn how to send the correct messages to your new body parts. Assuming that you can get the heart and lung nerves correctly connected, of course... IIRC heart and lung function are usually considered critical for continued function of any body ;)

      1. PatientOne

        Re: Is it April 1st?

        @NumptyScrub

        The brain re-maps the connections making it easier when reconnecting broken nerves or spinal tissue. It learns quite quickly, especially with older people as we know what we're trying to do and what the outcome should be.

        you see this a lot with stroke patients (where the brain can re-wire itself) and minor spinal injuries.

        So all you need to do is connect the head then maintain heart and lung functions until the brain has those mapped and under control, then wait for the patient to learn how to control their new body. Might take a year or two before the patient can do back flips, but there's still hope.

        However, I don't think this is has a practical application due to suitable candidates being few and far between: You'd need a donor who has gone brain dead but who has an otherwise healthy body, and who is not going to be subjected to an autopsy to see how they died, so Big Brother contestants won't qualify...

        1. Simon Harris Silver badge

          Backflips

          If somebody had just glued my head onto a new body, I'd be a bit wary of doing anything too acrobatic!

      2. jubtastic1
        Trollface

        Re: thrashing like a newborn

        Ah, you're awake Mr... NumptyScrub? I'm pleased to tell you that the operation was a complete success however there will be a period of adjustment while your brain rewires its connections to the new donor body.

        To assist you over this period we have implanted a small device which allows you to manually trigger limb movements through the judicious use of this technological marvel, the QWOP keypad.

      3. James Micallef Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Is it April 1st?

        " Assuming that you can get the heart and lung nerves correctly connected, of course... IIRC heart and lung function are usually considered critical for continued function of any body ;)"

        Long time since my biology classes, and I may be WAY off the mark here, but... heart, lungs are partially or fully not under conscious control, the signals don't originate in the central nervous system, but in the autonomous nervous system. I think that is partly the brain, partly the spinal cord, so possibly this is not an issue*. Any neurosurgeons on the forum who can comment?

        *In any case the article says he's already done this successfully on mammals so shouldn't be a problem

      4. Rampant Spaniel

        Re: Is it April 1st?

        Head transplants, or more specifically this research, is not nonsense. It is part of a larger field of research. In isolation the research has limited use, but work is progressing in finding answers to all the issues involved with spinal repair and the associated proceedures that would benefit from it. Consider if this research hasn't been done and we did find a method for repairing spinal damage (which even a jaded old cynic like myself believes will happen and within my lifetime), we would then need to do this research anyway.

        The days of one smart feller sitting down with a pen and fixing an entire problem are mostly long gone. Most problems are solved by being broken into smaller problems, each being worked on by different researchers. Hopefully they are all sucessful and the cumulative efforts solve several large problems.

        This team deserves credit, they took on a project that could have ended their careers just by suggesting they do the research. Hi I want to do head transplants usually sets of the nutter alarms, and we all know how public opinion responds to stuff like this. Not only were they crazy enough to try but it looks like they have figured out an important part of a bigger problem.

    4. PatientOne

      Re: We can't currently repair damaged nerves in humans.

      Yes we can. It's not brilliant but we're improving the technique all the time.

      Currently we can restore some, but not all sensation from badly damaged nerves, and we can transplant nerves, and there is ongoing research into the use of stem cells to mend nerve damage. We know stem cells can repair spinal cord damage, and have helped previously paralysed people walk again, and that was from over 5 years ago. The only issue is that most of this research is restricted, and patients have to go private for the treatment.

  15. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    "hitherto incurable diseases"

    Such as mental illnesses? Any voluntary donors?

  16. bahaelaila7

    cut spinal cord, drain blood from head, introduce heart attack in the body.... then glue the new head.

    yep totally appealing

    wait, why not just cut the head off, duct tape the new head as fast as possible?

    1. bonkers

      Blackadder had a word on this...

      Queenie: Oh come now Lady Farrow, crying isn't going to help your husband now.

      Nursie: No! Ointment! That's what you need when your head's been cut off! That's what I gave your sister Mary when they done her. "There, there" I said, "you'll soon grow a new one.

      Queenie: Shut up Nursie

  17. bahaelaila7

    I don't see the need for that. you can always photoshop face-swap

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hah

    Just a little off the top please. Oops

  19. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    It's hard to appreciate just how much advanced research was done in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

    Implanted neural radio telemetry active brain structure changes. Dr Delgardo (late 50s to early 70s. Still alive).

    Head transplants done in both USA and Soviet Union.

    1st human incubator 1965.

    Cutting edge medical technology but all extremely creepy. the human incubator item really floored me (Life magazine cover). I had thought we were decades away from trying this (and I mean in the future).

    Cautious (very cautious) thumbs up.

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