In a highly controversial experiment and the first of its kind, scientists have transplanted the head of a rat onto the body of a second rat, creating a two-headed rodent. This reportedly demonstrates that human head transplants will be possible in the next few years.
The experiment was conducted by a team of Chinese scientists, led by Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero. Canavero has earned worldwide infamy due to his claims that he can perform the world’s first human head transplant this year, Mashable reports.
Three rats were used for the study: a small rat was the donor, one larger rat was the recipient, and the third provided a continuous blood supply to the donor’s brain. The smaller rat’s head’s blood vessels were attached to the recipient’s own head. The resulting creature was able to blink and respond, according to the scientists, though it only lived for 36 hours.
Canavero proposed the idea of head transplants in 2013, after a controversial surgery attached the whole head of a monkey onto a different body. The monkey was kept alive for 20 hours due to “ethical reasons,” Canavero said. The idea behind human head transplants is to take a living person’s head and attach it onto a donor body.
Not surprisingly, the whole notion has met with plenty of opposition. Harry Goldsmith, a clinical professor of neurological surgery at the University of California, Davis, said,
This is such an overwhelming project, the possibility of it happening is very unlikely. The real stumbling block is the ethics. Should this surgery be done at all? There are obviously going to be many people who disagree with it.
Canavero announced in 2016 that he had a VR system capable of preparing patients for the psychological trauma of looking at someone else’s body attached to their own – something else that has been met with widespread incredulity and skepticism.
The study was published in CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics.