Benjamin Acosta '23
People die every week. Throughout human history, around 100 billion human lives have been tragically cut off. As mad scientist Dr. Sergio Canavero points out, this is “genocide on a mass scale.” But science is on our side. Just three weeks ago, science allowed surgeons to transplant a genetically modified pig heart into Mr. David Bennett, in what may be the first fully successful xenotransplantation. As science has guided us, the human life expectancy has doubled in just a century and a half, and as the field of surgery makes such significant advances, we approach a world without death, without this mass scale genocide!
It is a general axiom of human thought that great achievement leaves our species only temporarily satisfied, and gives rise to one question: What next? Well, the next step is really quite obvious: brain transplants. Or rather, whole-body transplants, as the brain is the part being preserved. Out of the top ten causes of death, only two are directly related to the brain—stroke and dementia—meaning that millions of people are dying with intact brains! If we could salvage those brains, where supposedly consciousness and memory reside, while scrapping the bodies, then heart and lung illnesses, bodily wounds, and diarrhea would cease to be problems at all!
Of course, this idea is not new. Over the past hundred some years surgeons have grappled with the challenges of connecting the blood supply of the severed head to the recipient body (vascular anastomosis), of dealing with immune rejection, and of connecting severed nerve fibers together, and their progress is promising. There are a few names to know when it comes to the history of head transplantation (brain transplantation is less of a thing, since it’s a little trickier), such as Carrel, Canavero, Demikhov, Guthrie, 任晓平 (Ren Xiaoping), and White. These names (listed in alphabetical order rather than chronological or some other method) all have the first name Dr. and are fairly interesting names, especially Carrel, Guthrie, and Demikhov, which three can be summarized by the following: dog. I hope this wisdom offers some value.
White managed in the ‘60s to create real-life, living, paralyzed monkeys on pulmonary support with transplanted heads drowned in immunosuppressants, and the heads could perform some basic motor functions, which was quite amazing, even if the high doses of immunosuppressants proved lethal. 任晓平 and Canavero are the more relevant names, as they have in the past decade made progress in spinal anastomosis (attaching the isolated brain to the recipient spinal cord) in animals with the use of fusogens like polyethylene glycol. Working together, they supposedly saw some success in reattaching severed monkey heads and following Canavero’s outlined head anastomosis venture (HEAVEN) surgical procedure, performed a human head transplant in 2017 with 任晓平 on a human specimen. However, the awesomeness of the success there is somewhat diminished by the fact that it was between two corpses. While there is some vagueness surrounding cancelled live procedures and Canavero’s next intentions, the immortal future is perhaps not far from reach.
Hot take: pig. There’s a reason fetal pigs are so popular for dissection and why the recent pig heart transplant was so successful: pigs are anatomically similar to humans. So if a human can host a pig heart, why can’t a pig host a human brain? As soon as Dr. Canavero figures out his head transplants, I’m sure he won’t take long to figure out brain transplants, and then he’ll turn to testing with pigs due to a number of evident advantages.
First, there is a serious deficiency in organ donors. So using one human body with its two kidneys, heart, spleen, and appendix just for one car-crash victim would almost seem like a waste. And there are ethical problems with killing people for their bodies, while pigs abound, protected only by a few animal rights activists.
Also, it is a universal truth that pigs are far cuter than humans. It is no small chance that the film Charlotte’s Web, starring the pig Wilbur, was one of the top 60 films of 2006, grossing almost 150 million dollars, while the same year Zyzzyx Road, which grossed only 30 dollars, starred only human beings. The numbers speak for themselves.
Lastly, studies have shown that pigs neither exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 nor can they transmit it. Who knows how long the virus will protract its world domination by creating more variants? As anti-masking sentiments and quarantine contempt escalate, selfies of new covid-resistant porcine bodies are almost guaranteed to go viral.
Though pigs only have 15-year lifespans, the brain can just be transplanted again! The practice of reincarnating dying humans’ brains into pigs may be the most important technological and scientific innovation of all time as we defeat death, the ultimate oppressor, with a diamond scalpel and some polyethylene glycol. And as saved people flaunt their snouts on TikTok, repigcarnation will doubtless become the hottest new trend for all people. We will not only create a brighter future for those with fatal illnesses, but may well even end up evolving humanity as the world begins to see the surgical operation’s true potential.