The first ever human head transplants could be achieved within the next decade, claims a former NHS neurosurgeon who believes he knows how the feat of moving a person’s consciousness to another body could be made to work.
Bruce Mathew, a former clinical lead for neurosurgery at Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, was working on a science fiction novel with Institute of Futurology founder Michael Lee when he realised the potential key to making the outlandish surgery a success.
He believes that surgeons would not only have to transplant a person’s head, but place their entire spinal cord into another body.
Until now, the few contentious scientists striving to make head transplants a reality have mainly focused on methods that sever the spinal cord – an idea that Mr Mathew, who has performed more than 10,000 operations, describes as “utterly ridiculous”.
But the 63-year-old from Hull asserts that advancements in nerve surgery, robotics and stem cell transplants mean that it could be possible to reattach an entire spinal cord – and its corresponding head – to another body before 2030.
“Initially our intention was to just brainstorm an idea and it seemed rather silly, but then I realised, it actually isn’t. If you transplant the brain and keep the brain and spinal cord together it’s actually not impossible,” he told The Telegraph.
“The spinal cord is the most profound thing imaginable. You need to keep the brain connected to the spinal cord. The idea that you cut the split the spinal cord is utterly ridiculous.
One of the more infamous scientists in the sparse head transplant field, Sergio Canavero, in 2017 claimed to have performed a successful transplant on a human corpse based on a method that severs the spinal cord at the base of the neck.
He claimed electrical stimulation proved it had been a success, but other scientists criticised the claims and pointed to his previous claim of success with a monkey, which never regained consciousness and would have remained paralysed if it had done so.
Mr Canavero, who has a willing human volunteer lined up, suggested his work could pave the way to immortality – a word also used in the title of Mr Mathew and Mr Lee’s book, called Chrysalis: A surgical sci-fi story about immortal potential.
Mr Mathew continued: “The thought of keeping [the spinal cord] in one piece has always been totally daunting, but now with modern technology you can do most things.