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    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeApr 13th 2009 edited
     (5582.1)
    Robert White was a Professor of Neurological Surgery at Case Western Reserve University for 40 years.

    He estimates he performed over 10,000 operations on the brain and he pioneered new surgical techniques involving lowering brain temperature to reduce blood flow and extend the length of time available for operations which have probably saved the lives of millions.

    But mostly he's remembered for cutting off the heads of living chimpanzees and attaching them to the bodies of other chimpanzees.

    He did this back in the 70's and it worked - although paralyzed from the neck down the chimpanzees with the new bodies could live indefinitely.

    It would probably have worked on humans if he'd been allowed to try it.

    Even now he gets a wistful look in his eye as explains how a whole body transplant would probably improve Stephen Hawkings' quality of life.

    There's a really great video document about Professor White here.

    It's a great portrait of a real life "mad scientist" - a brilliant and highly ethical man who can't really understand why other people are so irrational when it comes to his desire to cut off the living heads of quadriplegicsand graft them onto the bodies of the braindead.
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      CommentAuthorrazrangel
    • CommentTimeApr 13th 2009
     (5582.2)
    highly ethical man

    Come again?
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeApr 13th 2009
     (5582.3)
    He's deeply religious and has obviously thought at great length about whether or not it's ethical to go around chopping off living heads and transplanting them. He even asked the Pope.
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      CommentAuthorOsmosis
    • CommentTimeApr 14th 2009
     (5582.4)
    I can't imagine how that conversation would have gone ... 0_o
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeApr 14th 2009
     (5582.5)
    Since when has the Catholic church been opposed to grotesquely intrusive and expensive treatments intended to preserve life regardless of the quality of said life?

    For an extra added squick factor, consider that the donor body need not be human.
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      CommentAuthorOsmosis
    • CommentTimeApr 14th 2009
     (5582.6)
    I have no idea what position the church would take on monkeying around with monkey heads. I just find it a fantastic scene to picture; somebody rocking up to His Holiness and saying, "Benny, I've been wondering whether or not it's ethical to go around chopping off living heads and transplanting them. Whaddayathink?"
    • CommentAuthorIan_M
    • CommentTimeApr 14th 2009
     (5582.7)
    The Catholic Church funded his transplant operations. At the time the operations were intended to test the ideas: People thought it could be done, based on the knowledge and techniques of the time, but didn't know. The debates following the operations informed a lot of the Church's modern positions on transplant operations.

    Neurosurgery has improved a lot since then, and medical science has developed some interesting techniques for repairing spinal damage. It's remotely possible that a survivor of this sort of transplant could gain limited sensation from the transplant body.

    I'm not volunteering though.
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      CommentAuthorrickiep00h
    • CommentTimeApr 14th 2009
     (5582.8)
    This might be derailing, but how was the decision made on "full body transplant" over "head transplant"? I suppose either is just as appropriate... semantically speaking, are the two that different?
  1.  (5582.9)
    Huh. Obviously, someone's taken the seat of human identity to be the brain.

    (Which is absurd, because everyone know's your soul is located inside the elbow of whichever arm you use to wipe your bum.)
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeApr 14th 2009
     (5582.10)
    What Brian said, but I think White preferred the term WBT because it sounds less sensationalistic.
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      CommentAuthorrickiep00h
    • CommentTimeApr 14th 2009
     (5582.11)
    What Brian said, but I think White preferred the term WBT because it sounds less sensationalistic.


    I actually laughed there. Good and hard.

    @Brian - That's kind of my point. I mean, from a medical standpoint, it's just taking one thing and attaching it to another. Couldn't you do the same thing with a kidney transplant? "We put the whole body of a totally different person around this kidney!"
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      CommentAuthoroddbill
    • CommentTimeApr 14th 2009
     (5582.12)
    How far away is this do you suppose:

    Person suffers irreparable trauma. Head is undamaged, but body is destroyed, maybe because of disease or cancer, maybe because of violence or accident. In the hospital, person is kept alive by artificial means in an induced coma.

    Meanwhile, organs necessary to life processes (lungs, heart, liver, digestive system) are assembled either from donors or from organs grown from the patient's own cells. When these are ready they are integrated into a self-sustaining set, able to be given nutrition, pump blood and breathe on it's own.

    At this point the head of the patient is removed from the ruined body and attached to the organ set.

    When this is stable and self-sustaining, the head & organs are placed in some sort of mobile platform like a special wheelchair with a built in organ chamber. Manipulator arms are attached which are wired to the patient's brain.

    The patient is now brought out of the coma - alive, mobile and semi independent. Expensive as hell to maintain, but this will not stop the very rich from going to this kind of freakish length.

    All the pieces for this scenario exist today in some form. They have not yet been integrated, but I don't see why they can't be.
    • CommentAuthorIan_M
    • CommentTimeApr 14th 2009
     (5582.13)
    If you can grow the organs and perform the surgeries needed to integrate them as a brain support system, you don't need a mobile organ platform. More to the point, your mobile organ platform is made of meat, bones, cartilage, and all those other tasty bits grown in the same vat as the organs. Muscle and connective tissue have proven to be simple* to grow, while whole organs are very complicated bits of meat.

    Growing a whole adult body - As a brainless clone-double of the donor - would probably take a decade and a half to reach maturity. Growing the individual tissues in specialized bioreactors and then assembling them by surgery will probably be faster. It depends on how long it takes to grow a healthy organ alone in a vat, but early experiments indicate you can grow an adult-sized tissue cluster in a few days..

    How far away is it? If institutions pour money into various programs, we're about ten years away from mass deployment of current technologies that can build replacement tissues for transplant into damaged bodies. If the money slows down, about twenty years. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tissue_engineering ) Full-body reconstruction is probably about ten to twenty years after deployment of current technologies, again depending on the money. So say twenty to fourty years down the line for the full-on all-new-squishy-bits experience. Another ten years after that for kids to take it for granted, and another ten to twenty for the price to come down to the point where body-transplants are an affordable cosmetic option.

    By 2050 at the earliest or 2080 at the latest, self-loathing teenagers will be begging their parents for a mesomorphic bodytype like all the cool kids have this year.

    * Y'know, as simple as could be expected, given that you could write a textbook about the functions of a single muscle cell.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeApr 14th 2009
     (5582.14)
    It's worth remembering that White did his work back in the 70's.

    Preserving people's lives in this way would probably be quite feasible now - the real barrier is less technological than ethical.

    Progress in regrowing nerves or in direct brain interfacing to get around the problem might make the procedure more acceptable but really I think it's more likely than some dictator like Kim Jong Il will be the first person to undergo this procedure.
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      CommentAuthoroddbill
    • CommentTimeApr 14th 2009
     (5582.15)
    When you think of the psychological problems people have had accepting transplanted hands as their own, it's really sort of dreadful to imagine the hell it is likely to be to wake up sewn onto someone else's whole body.
    • CommentAuthorpoor_boy
    • CommentTimeApr 15th 2009
     (5582.16)
    <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSrIkUXwsNk"></a>
  2.  (5582.17)
    (Which is absurd, because everyone know's your soul is located inside the elbow of whichever arm you use to wipe your bum.)


    I thought it was the reason we have an appendix.
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      CommentAuthorrickiep00h
    • CommentTimeApr 15th 2009
     (5582.18)
    No no. The reason we have an appendix is so it can swell up and kill us. It's nature's way of reminding us that even stupid, useless crap can be deadly if we ignore it long enough.
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      CommentAuthorWillow Bl00
    • CommentTimeApr 17th 2009 edited
     (5582.19)
    oddbill already addressed my first thought. I can't wait until JSTOR is open to non-students, but here is what I remember:
    the first hand transplant was done sometime in the mid 60s, but the reciever rejected the hand because he *psychologically* believed it was not his. It seems that the more connected someone feels to their body and substituted parts, the more likely they are to be incorporated. Considering how much more capable we are now of connecting brain bits to body bits (imaginary limbs, recreating lost connections, better surgical abilities and tools, etc), what's to say this isn't legit? Yes, there is definitely a "squick" factor, but think about it logically.

    Why are we so hung up on going back into a body that's either a clone of our own or some other reproduction thereof (even foglets could still be in "you" form). While what capabilities your body has, and how you interact with society based on how you are physically percieved determines a lot of how you interact with the world, and therefore how you mentally create yourself, what else is there? Why would such a radically new experience be unwanted?

    Having your head removed is a violent action. What about just transfering the brain? Would that be less squick-tastic?
  3.  (5582.20)
    Honestly, people. I have a quiet suspicion that humankind will always, regrettably, have better things to worry about than if their brain can one day be switched between bodies, such as eating and not being murdered.

    "Good news! The seas no longer support life, and we're all out of oil -- but you don't have to face the daily horror of some day possibly being paralyzed from the neck down anymore!" This is the scientific equivalent of taking up obscure royal etiquette classes, you know, just in case you're suddenly married into royalty. Imagine if science makes all imortal! Fucking hope we already have a plan in place for perpetual limb replacement, or life will suck wose than ever!