#11: Monkey-Head Transplant
Listed in chronological order. Newest comments at the end.
When Vladimir Demikhov unveiled his two-headed dogs in 1954, it inspired a strange kind of surgical arms race (or rather, head race) between the two superpowers. Eager to prove that its surgeons were actually the best in the world, the American government began funding the work of Robert White, who then embarked on a series of experimental surgeries, performed at his brain research center in Cleveland, Ohio, resulting in the world's first successful monkey-head transplant.
The head transplant occurred on March 14, 1970. It took White and his assistants hours to perform the carefully choreographed operation, separating a monkey's head from its body and reattaching it to a new body. When the monkey woke and found that its body had been switched for a new one, it angrily tracked White with its eyes and snapped at him with its teeth. The monkey survived a day and a half before succumbing to complications from the surgery. As bad as it was for the monkey, it could have been worse. White noted that, from a surgical point of view, it would have been easier to put the monkey's head on backwards.
White thought he should have been treated like a hero, but instead the public was appalled by what he had done. Nevertheless, White soldiered on, campaigning to raise support for a human head transplant. He toured with Craig Vetovitz, a near-quadriplegic, who volunteered to be the first to undergo the procedure. The public is still a long way from accepting the idea of human head transplants, but if White has his way, one day it will happen.
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So many thoughts on this one but I do remember my dad say after his body began to degenerate rapidly 'pity they've not got around to head transplants ! 'As somebody with a sharp mind to the end of his life it was very scary for him to observe this decline.
Posted by jill in edinburgh on Sun Feb 24, 2008 at 04:37 PM
What kind of sick fuck would do something so acenine?! Hasn't anyone thought about the consequences of splicing bodies with heads? There are so many factors that could cause disasterous resaults on the recipiants. we would be creating mutants, especially when the RNA of the head transplantee mixes withe DNA of the doner's body. the mutation could potentially create a very infectious disease such as cancer, a contagious cancer. we should be extremely cautious with any kind of transplant we preform with any organ.
I am shocked and appaled that there are actually people who support this perversion. A kidney transplant is one thing, but this totally different.
Posted by Randy in Colorado on Thu Apr 03, 2008 at 09:51 PM
This is just sick, and disgusting.
I wouldnt want a headtransplant if i was quadriplegic. I wouldnt be me anymore.
White is a sick man for doing this to animals too, useless buisiness.
Posted by Me on Tue Apr 15, 2008 at 06:56 AM
I don't understand people.
Everyone claims to believe in a God and a Heaven, and that is supposed to be a peaceful place. So why is everyone so damn afraid of death that they think that they need to stretch their lives until the infinite?
There will be an end to your life someday, just face it.
Posted by Lana on Tue Apr 15, 2008 at 07:03 AM
Posted by 21233sda in 43243 on Thu Jun 12, 2008 at 10:32 AM
Your blog was so interesting and informative I had to call a friend to tell her about it. Great work
Posted by Athones in Chad, Bath on Thu Jul 03, 2008 at 05:04 AM
I would not oppose any medicine advancement that is achieved without causing any harm to any person.
If there was a harmless and useful way of having complete head, brain or body transplants, it could be a huge achievement to medicine.
But we have to think about what we have here. When Dr. White performed his experiment, he had to severe the monkey's spinal cord in order to separate his head from his original body, what rendered him quadriplegic. At that time it was impossible to reconstruct its nerves and nowadays it is still impossible, otherwise quadriplegic people could be treated in order to regain their lost body functions.
So, even if the advances of the medicaments against tissue rejection could allow a person to not die from tissue rejection after the transplant, why would a quadriplegic want to transplant his head to a quadriplegic body? That's why studies in this area were abbandoned for good. There are many other difficulties to be solved before considering again a head or brain transplant.
Posted by Fernando in S on Mon Aug 04, 2008 at 05:07 PM
it's interesting that just recently there was talk about farming human bodies without heads so there would be a "crop" of body parts.... this seemed too guesome to think too long about. But now that we're going to need these bodies for our upcoming 'head' need it all makes sense!!! (ewwww!) It's creepy to think about, scary to acknowledge someone somewhere is really doing it and frightening to think we may end up somehow a part of it at some point:(
Posted by audrey in chicago on Wed Aug 06, 2008 at 02:47 PM
while america and russia cut the heads off of animals to prove who was the best, the rest of the world proved they were better than america and russia by NOT cutting the heads off of animals.
Posted by lol on Tue Sep 16, 2008 at 11:43 PM
I would definitely not want my head attached to the body of a person with cancer, who was insane or suicidal.
I would accept the body of person who died from head trauma, period.
But what if I was dying and the only body available was of the opposite sex? Would I accept the body? Would the doctors do the surgery if I did accept it? Would I be male or female? Would my insurance pay for a sex transplant?
Posted by Pat in California on Thu Sep 25, 2008 at 05:30 PM
No one I mean no one on this earth would turn down a second chance of life, if their body had been taken by an accident. Yes, I feel for the monkeys but when has anything that has been worth while ever been simple and without some consequence?
Posted by Dannystaples on Wed Nov 12, 2008 at 01:59 PM
You guys do realize that the monkey had absolutely no control over his own body, right? I'm not even sure the organs functioned correctly, seeing as the monkey died shorty after the 'transplant'. And, seeing as the monkey had no bodily control, why in the world would paralyzed people want the 'transplant'?
I mean, you'd still be paralyzed, but you'd die in a couple days... I guess it's a good idea if you want to kill yourself, but that's about it.
Scientists excuse this whole experiment because it's impossible for the body to regenerate the nerves needed for this to work... So, this is nothing but a waste of money and the life of a poor monkey.
Posted by Nicole in Here on Tue May 12, 2009 at 12:50 PM
Dear God, what is this world becoming.
I just discovered this by watching monster quest, and stumbled upon this site.
After seeing this I wanted too: cry, yell, shoot myself, screeem, puke till my floor turned red, and then make it all go away.
This is FUCKED UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I'm not an animal rights activist, but I am a people rights activist, and this is...is going to be people cruelty. This shit aint going away, our world is as fucked as it ever was, and the sooner I leave the better.
How long before the government begins to decide at which point our brains aren't worth saving, and our body's to decrepit for them to be worth feeding?
I'm not saying that it WILL come to this, but that It CAN and very likely will!
The sadist part is that we put ourselves in to these types of situations, they say, "we'll cure cancer" and we give them OUR money, and then they go make a monstrosity, or decide to go test ADD meds on monkeys!
"The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity" - Harlan Ellison
Posted by probibly dead by now on Sun May 31, 2009 at 08:06 PM
@Derek--regarding your cliche modernist speech.
you didn't mention how many scientists, doctors today show that body/head transplant experiments have little value -considering spinal cord damage-occurs when heads are severed===meaning that if your old body couldnt move/work....the new one sure as hell won't either..
there is also the issue of RNA/DNA mutations- risk of disease resulting from those mutations.
also that stem cell research provides more promising solutions to the same problems
instead you went on and on how these experiments( deemed pointless by many scientists)for the sake of knowledge and experience....really funny.
you do not have all the facts but you support the experiments claiming they are promising and represent a pursuit of knowledge. you also call opponents closed minded idiots.
fanaticism is the real problem..whether it works through religion or science, it is always based on ignorance and arrogance.
the problem is the mindless drones spewing ideological poison that infest religious and scientific institutions rather than the institutions themselves...
Posted by darren in Hamilton, Ontario on Wed Nov 04, 2009 at 03:10 PM
It's impossible to reconnect the nerve threads from the brain to the body once they're cut, so errr, how exactly does this help quadriplegics? they'd be just as paralysed as they were in the first place! The only way this would be of medical benefit is if they could find a way to cure the paralysis induced by cutting the spinal cord anyway, which would render this technique unneeded in the first place.
However, that said, research like this might be the only way into finding the way to "fix" the damaged nerves of paralysed people! So that gives an everyday "justification" to this research. I.e. although this procedure can't (in my opinion) be justified for common routine, it could be justified for medical research, which can then be applied to a more humane and by public opinion, acceptable, procedure. If people are therefore willing to donate their bodies to such research, then that's their choice! (before they become brain-dead, that is
Posted by andrew on Sun Jan 03, 2010 at 11:58 AM
and yeah, just realised my post is v similar to those of others.. woops :D
Posted by andrew on Sun Jan 03, 2010 at 12:01 PM
I do note that the detractors are lacking in basic spelling skills but NOT in the area of profanity. However unrealistic these surgeries may be at the moment, they are potentially very close at hand. As soon as a viable method of nerve grafting is discovered, we could see the free transplantation of bodies. THEN and ONLY THEN, would this surgery be of an actual benefit to mankind, ie paraplegics, etc.
However, it might also answer questions as to where the seat of Us is. Do our memories, personalities, tastes, etc. reside exclusively in the brain, or is there something else that makes us US? Did those monkeys actually show changes in personality? Is memory carried in the cells as well as the brain? Or is there an actual soul that carries all of that? An as-yet unfound organ or matter that carries the essence of us? These are burning questions which have itched at the brains of mankind since time immemorial and they do deserve answers. Remember, there is NO knowledge that is not worth having.
Posted by Trish in USA on Wed Mar 31, 2010 at 11:13 AM
Remind anyone else of Futurama?
Posted by Don on Fri Aug 06, 2010 at 01:50 AM
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