Why are we calling this procedure a head transplant rather than a body transplant?
The head transplant moniker is partly a hangover from monkey and dog experiments of the last century. This was how the surgeons that carried out those experiments referred to the procedure, and it stuck.
Technically, calling it a body transplant would be more accurate because the head is representative of the person receiving the new body part. But be careful, it’s not a whole body transplant. That term is usually used to describe a procedure in which the brain of one organism is transplanted into the body – and skull – of another.
By calling Sergio Canavero’s proposed surgery a head transplant it makes it clearer that this involves the head and the brain inside.
What’s the difference between brain and head transplants?
A brain transplant would involve removing the brain from the skull and placing it in a donor skull. It is more difficult than a head transplant because of the complex surgery to separate the brain and blood supply without damaging delicate tissue.
Could the transplant technique work for a cryogenically frozen head?
No. The proposed technique requires a healthy human head and brain. It is not yet known whether it is possible to “defrost” a cryogenically frozen head and resurrect healthy brain tissue.
Would the surgery be psychologically damaging?
Some people who have received face or limb transplants mourn the loss of their old body part or feel that their self image is conflicted. Studies show that inputs from our body, such as a heartbeat or rumbling stomach, can influence our will power, emotions and language. Who knows whether the person who comes out of the operating room would be the same as the one who went in.
Would there be any benefits apart from getting a healthier body?
If the recipient head is older than the donor body, they may get a rejuvenating boost. Infusions of young blood can raise physical endurance and cognitive function in older animals. A study is now seeing if young blood has the same effect on people with Alzheimer’s.
I’m a registered organ donor. Could my body be used for this?
Each country has its own rules.