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China Doctor To Swap Heads of Two Humans, Says It’s The ‘New Frontier’ In Science

Jun 14, 2016 07:02 AM EDT
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A doctor in China said he is planning the world's first full-body transplant on a living human being and will begin operation as soon as his team is ready.

Dr. Ren Xiaoping of Harbin Medical University, who was nicknamed Dr. Frankenstein by Chinese media, told the New York Times that he is working on the details of his full-body transplant procedure, which involves removing the two heads of the bodies and connecting the recipient's head to the donor's body.

According to Ren, the two heads will be removed from the bodies and the blood vessels from the body of the deceased donor will be connected to the recipient's head. A metal plate will be inserted to stabilize the new neck and the spinal cord nerve endings will be immersed in a gluelike substance that helps regrowth. And then the final step, the skin will be sewn up.

Medical experts around the world, including some in China, were flummoxed with the idea, saying that Ren is "pushing the ethical and practical limits of science" too far. Leading doctors and experts pointed out that connecting the nerves in the spinal cord is a complicated matter, and failure might lead to the death of the patient.

"For most people, it's at best premature and at worst reckless," Dr. James L. Bernat, a professor of neurology and medicine at the Dartmouth College Geisel School of Medicine told New York Times.

Dr. Huang Jiefu, former deputy minister of health in China, also said in an interview that the plan is "ethically impossible." "How can you put one person's head on another's body?" he said.

Earlier this year, Ren and his team had successfully carried out a head transplant on a monkey, and the animal lived for 20 hours. In past experiments, Ren conducted operations on 1,000 mice, but none survived for more than a day.

Just recently, Ren told The Daily Mail that he and his team are getting closer to their goal.

"We can't say it will happen tomorrow - but I am not ruling out next year," he said.

The Chinese government has invested billions in scientific research and urged scientists to continue innovating as part of its drive to become a world leader in science.

"A human head transplant will be a new frontier in science. Some people say it is the last frontier in medicine," Ren said. "It is a very sensitive and very controversial subject but if we can translate it to clinical practice, we can save a lot of lives."

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