Recently, French scientists at the University of Southern North Dakota – Baltimore performed the first successful human brain transplant. Said the chief neurosurgeon, Dr. Cranial Head, MD, “This is a breakthrough of unprecedented magnitude. I’m ecstatic all our research and hard work finally paid off. We couldn’t be more pleased with how things turned out.”
The patient, who only agreed to be called Jose Ivanovich O’Malley, III for anonymity reasons, suffered a massive anterior communicating arterial stroke that left him severely incapacitated. He was a veterinarian at a local clinic before his stroke. His family heard about the research Dr. Head’s team was doing with rats and contacted him about the possibility of being his first human subject. Dr. Head agreed immediately, “I saw this as the perfect opportunity to advance our research out of animals and into humans. We’ve had great success – recently – with brain transplants in rats so it was only logical to start human trials.”
“This new brain transplant surgery is quite remarkable,” said Dr. Head. “My colleague, Dr. Sarah Wu, and I first came up with the idea 40 years ago while we were competing in a triathlon. It came out of the blue, really, neither of us are quite sure why we thought of it but here we are.”
What’s remarkable about the surgery is that it is done all under local anesthetic and the patient is kept talking throughout the procedure, except for the time when the brains are switched (during this time the patient is placed on life support). In this case, the transplanted brain came from a local high school physics teacher Stephen Cabeza who suffered an unexpected heart attack. He was not only young but also in good health. The Cabeza family wishes remain anonymous. The transplanted brain is removed from the original body and cooled to halt neuronal death. The end of the severed spinal column is treated with a new nanoglue that automatically splices individual axons to the new spinal cord when the transplant brain is placed on top.
“It’s incredible,” said Dr. Head, “surprisingly we don’t have much work to do because with this new nanoglue the process of reconnecting nerve fibers is automatic. It only takes 4 minutes. We just inspect the brain and spinal cord to make sure everything is lined up correctly. The nanoglue is also applied to areas like the optic nerves, that need to be spliced into the new brain.”
After the surgery, Jose made a speedy recovery. Within 24 hours he was moving his limbs and within a week he was walking and talking. His wife said, “It’s a miracle. We thought Jose was gone forever but Dr. Head saved him. He doesn’t know who any of us are, of course, and calls himself Stephen but we are all willing to work with the new Jose and learn to love him and hope he will learn to love us.” The medical team, however, remains baffled why Jose insists his name is Stephen. When asked if he planned on returning to work at his veterinary clinic, Jose stated that he couldn’t wait to return to teaching physics: “I’ve always had a love of physics. There’s something about gravity research that really attracts me.” Jose doesn’t remember any of his past self or his work as a veterinarian.
Disclaimer: this post was written in 2008 as an April Fool’s Day joke years before the idea of a head/body transplant was popularized by news media. It’s made up and was written to be humorous. Surgeons cannot at the present time perform brain transplants, regardless of what you read online. The surgeon who claims he can perform a head transplant will not be successful. The idea of a brain/head/body replacement is interesting both as a potential medical advancement and as a point of ethical discussion. Is it theoretically possible? Yes. Will it happen anytime soon? No. Should it happen? That’s a discussion for another time.