I don’t know if you saw the article about head transplants in the Wall Street Journal but I was astonished to learn that a Chinese surgeon, Xiaoping Ren, has done over 1,000 such transplants with mice since 2013. That’s right, in delicate operations that last ten hours the head of one mouse is completely severed from its body and transplanted on to the body of another mouse. No joke! I am told that stupid and ugly Chinese mice are standing in line to be the next guinea pigs. Or, should I say lab rats?
The story, written by Shirley Wang, said that so far the longest any of the mice with new heads have lived is one day but at least one mouse was able to breathe, make basic movements and perform bodily functions. Heck, I know of Congresspersons who can’t do that.
According to Wang’s article, in 1908 an American scientist, C.C. Guthrie, tried to put a second head on the body of a dog. The goal was to get the two headed animal to drink out of the newer head. This immediately raised social issues such as, if the animal drank too much whiskey out of its new mouth, does it get a headache in the new brain, the old brain, or both?
In the 1950’s Chinese and Russian scientists did similar transplants on dogs and an American Doctor attempted a monkey head transplant in the 1970’s. I believe the creature that resulted is now a high ranking official at the EPA.
Not to be outdone, an Italian neurosurgeon, Sergio Canavero, has said that he would do a human head transplant within the next two years and he already has a head donor. You can sign me up too. I want one, a new body that is. I like my brain but the rest of my body is deteriorating badly and I dream of the day I can perform basic ordinary functions like sleeping and eating. Now with head transplants I can keep my own head and put it on a fully-functioning body with muscles. Not that I look at other guy’s bodies or anything, but I would prefer Brad Pitt’s body because my new name could then be either LeeBrad PittsPitt or BradLee PittPitts. How cool would that be?
Dr. Ren, the head transplanter, was educated and worked in America but went back to China to do head transplants because he didn’t think Americans would approve. He’s probably right. Can you imagine how the PC police would react here in America? In China anyone who objected would be, in the words of Chinese communist officials, “Gone missing.”
As the author says, “This does raise profound implications for personal identity.” But it could also be a great thing for people like Bruce, excuse me Caitlyn, Jenner. Instead of going through all this public hoopla he could have just swapped his head with the body of one of the Kardashian sisters and improved both people.
Of course, such experimentation does have implications for animal agriculture. In the not too distant future we could see the head of a pig put on a ewe, thereby creating the world’s smartest sheep. I’d also like to see race horse heads put on the bodies of steers which would sure make ropings far more interesting. And if you put the brain and head of a Border Collie on the body of a Dachshund, Shih Tzu, or any other purse dog, and then asked it to cut a cow the result would be hilarious. I know I’d sure pay money to see it.
I can think of all sorts of combinations but I suppose I should be more respectful about such things. After all, can you imagine the mental and physical trauma for the parties involved in a head transplant? Or at least for one of the donors anyway. The other probably won’t feel a thing.
In the final analysis all this business about head transplants sounds a little creepy and far too futuristic to me. I know guys who were devastated and depressed for years when their hair transplants didn’t work and I can’t begin to imagine how they’d handle going to sleep as a 300 pound nacho-guzzling, beer-drinking couch potato and waking up with ripped six pack abs, colorful tattoos, and a healthy liver.