To help people who are fully paralyzed, doctors in China are willing to go to extreme, almost sci-fi-ish lengths. Scientists want to do full-body transplants, which is exactly what it sounds like – replacing every part of the human body.
Dr. Xiaoping Ren, an orthopedic surgeon at Harbin Medical University in China, is assembling a team for the tall task, a procedure he’s already tested on mice. Unfortunately, those test mice only lasted a day post-transplants. Ren isn’t new to ground-breaking medical surgeries: he was a part of the first hand transplant in the U.S. in 1999.
No one knows the science behind what Ren’s doing – experts say it’s not possible to sever and reconnect a spine, for example – and the ethics of procedure are being condemned. If the surgery fails, the patient does die.
Doctors say Ren’s vision is simply impossible:
“Remove two heads from two bodies, connect the blood vessels of the body of the deceased donor and the recipient head, insert a metal plate to stabilize the new neck, bathe the spinal cord nerve endings in a gluelike substance to aid regrowth and finally sew up the skin.”
Simple enough, right?
China continues to push the ethical boundaries of science; in April of last year, Chinese scientists used a genetic editing technology called CRISPR to modify human embryos. This was done to the disbelief and horror of fellow researchers, who argued the science behind it is too early to be toyed with.