Brain transplants are feasible and would see people given entire new bodies

Brain transplants could one day see humans inhabit brand new bodies as they age, a neurosurgeon has claimed.

Sergio Canavero, whose unusual theories have made him a controversial figure in the scientific world, said the procedure would be "technically feasible" in the future, Vice News reported.

As a first step towards making his idea a reality, Canavero has been focusing on head transplants, which he says "work" but aren't as effective as his end goal.

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Speaking to Vice, Canavero said: "A human head transplant was the intermediate step towards a brain transplant. Since the latter is considered impossible, I decided to focus on HT [head transplant], which is far simpler.

"However, although I can tell you HT works, unfortunately it does not rejuvenate aged head tissues, including the eyes. BT [Brain transplant] is the only option."

Canavero detailed his brain transplant ideas in an article entitled "Whole brain transplantation in man: Technically feasible", which appeared in the peer-reviewed journal Surgical Neurology International (SNI), where Canavero is an editor.

But it's not the first time he has declared his interest in performing this kind of procedure.

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In 2015, he put forward the idea of a full head transplant and even said he had found a volunteer to be the first to have the surgery – Valery Spiridonov, a Russian computer programmer who has spinal muscular atrophy, a muscle-wasting disease.

Although Spiridonov pulled out in 2019, the highly controversial claim had already made international news.

In January 2016, Canavero claimed to have successfully carried out a head transplant on a monkey, who allegedly survived the procedure and remained alive for 20 hours without any neurological injuries.

However, he said, the monkey was unconscious throughout that time and the spinal cord was not reattached.

A year later in 2017, Canavero and colleagues practiced the human head transplant on two cadavers at Harbin Medical University in China, leading Canavero to declare the procedure effective.

However, his claims have been hard to verify.

Neuroscientist Dean Burnett wrote in the Guardian in 2017 that the procedures the surgeon claimed to have performed present challenges that science has not yet been able to overcome, and that Canavero "offered no feasible explanation or science for his claims to be able to overcome these hurdles".

Meanwhile, bioethicist Arthur Caplan wrote: "Head transplants are fake news. Those who promote such claims and who would subject any human being to unproven cruel surgery merit not headlines but only contempt and condemnation."

Canavero dismissed these criticisms, saying he’s not free "to talk about the HT project that unfolded in China, other than saying it works."

In this latest article, Canavero explained how he could, in theory, remove a person's brain and put it into the skull of either a clone or a donated and brain-dead "immunoconditioned" body.

"The unavailability of technologies that can successfully rejuvenate an aged body suggests that it is time to explore other options," the paper reads.

"Contrary to common lore, a full BT is achievable, at least theoretically.

"Of course, further extensive cadaveric rehearsals will be necessary, followed by tests in brain-dead organ donors (as e.g., done recently in kidney xenotransplants).

"New surgical tools will have to be developed. With appropriate funding, a long-held dream may finally come true."

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