Surgeon performs rat head transplant. Humans are next

In news that is both terrifying and intriguing, scientists in China have performed a head transplant between rats.

Three rats were used for the operation — a donor, a recipient, and one for blood supply. Then the final results with the donor rat’s head and forearms attached to the recipient.

The research report was published in CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics.

Apparently, head transplants are nothing new, as people have been trying to perform them on dogs and monkeys since at least 1908 (and probably before). There’s a full list of this stuff on National Geographic.

And professor Xiaoping Ren, one of the researchers on the new rat study claims to have successfully completed a monkey head transplant last year – though proof was unavailable.

The goal, according to the abstract, was to study the ability to control ischemic events and long-term immune rejection. (Ischemia apparently involves restricted blood supply to tissues. So says Wikipedia.)

As for what they did, the abstract says “The thoracic aorta and superior vena cava of a donor rat were anastomosed with the carotid artery and extracorporeal veins of a recipient rat by vascular grafts. Before thoracotomy in the donor rat, the axillary artery and vein of the donor were connected to the carotid and the extracranial vein of the third rat through a silicone tube. The silicone tube was passed through a peristaltic pump to ensure donor brain tissue blood supply.”

I don’t know what that means, but Tech Times says “By connecting the donor rat to the third rat using a silicone tube that is connected to a pump, blood flow to the brain tissue was guaranteed.”

If that’s the case, why didn’t the researchers just say that?

Anyway, the rats only lived for a short time but the goal is longer survival.

One of the researchers on this projects, Sergio Canavero, has become famous to talking head transplants, and has plans to perform the first human one later this year. Originally the subject was to be Valery Spiridonov, a terminally ill Russian man, but a new media release says the operation will be performed on an as-yet-unnamed Chinese national.

Canavero is now also talking about performing the world’s first brain transplant within the next three years.

Hunt Batjer, president elect of the American Association for Neurological Surgeons previously said of the head transplant. “I would not wish this on anyone. I would not allow anyone to do it to me as there are a lot of things worse than death.”