Tag Archives: Cryogenics

Head Transplants: the next medical feat?


The Idea

Professor Sergio Canavero wants to be the first surgeon ever to perform a head transplant. He claims that this could happen within the next year and that there are many volunteers willing to participate. He claims that despite the risk, there are many interested participants and the surgery will most likely take place in the UK, Germany or France.

The Patient

Valery Spiridonov is a 31-year-old man with Werdnig-Hoffman’s (muscle-wasting disease) who is willing to have his head transplanted onto a different body.

How it would work

All in all, the transplant would require a team of 150 medical professionals and 36 hours to complete. The first step would require freezing the head and body to stop brain cells from dying. The trickiest part of the surgery will involve cutting the spinal cord. Canavero claims a special knife made of diamonds will be used because of its strength and precision. The head will then be removed and the spinal cord glued to the donor. The testing of the procedure will be done on brain-dead donors to see how they recover neuro-physiologically.

The Questions

While many medical experts around the world claim his theories are science fiction and a head transplant is not feasible, Canavero claims that the surgery will have a success rate of 90%. If it is possible to perform a head transplant, than there are many questions that I have. Firstly, how would someone cope with living in a completely new body? More importantly, would they be the same person or would they change? Many questions are also raised about who the donor and recipient would be and what the requirements are to participate. I think while an interesting idea, many ethical questions are raised by the idea of a head transplant.

More information: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/37420905/the-surgeon-who-wants-to-perform-a-head-transplant-by-2017

Frozen Space


A few weeks ago during a discussion seminar we were talking about technology in the modern era that has prolonged life. Of the many technologies talked about, like respirators, artificial hearts, and stem-cell research, cryogenics came up. Along with the very cool/science fiction notion of cryogenics, there is a very real possibility of using this technology for space travel. However there is always an important question that comes up when discussing cryogenics. Is the individual truly alive? And, how does cryogenics change the concept of death in the modern era?

The concept behind cryogenics in space travel is what you see in science fiction movies. The idea is to provide humans an alternative to traveling millions of light years without the threat of aging or dying. Placing humans in a frozen state can accomplish this. This field is also very attractive in disease research because humans can be frozen in the hope to be reawaken in a time where that disease may be cured. Cryogenics is also an alternative to customary death rituals. Many individuals, instead of being buried or cremated, prefer to be in a constant frozen state.

Believe it or not, cryogenics is currently being used aboard modern space ships and space stations, but not in the way you see in movies. The cryogenics technology requires the use of H2 and O2 molecules to provide a freezing mechanism. This is very useful for rocket thrusters, engines, and to preserve food for long distance space travel. The same application can be used for humans too. But the problem lies in how to restore humans back to active status after arriving at a certain destination, or even if the freezing can be reversed and the humans are able to recuperate from such a long stretch of time in a frozen state.

Cryogenic technology is a viable option for long distance space traveling by allowing humans to be in a frozen state in which they cannot age or die. However cryogenics pushes the envelope of the modern concept of death and dying. This technology is already being used to freeze human remains for the purposes of medical research. Now it can be used to cheat death, in a sense, which will alter how we see death and dying in the future to come.

For more information on cryogenics in space please visit here.

For a look into history of cryogenics and application visit here and here.