Controversial plans for the first brain transplant are underway
In the time before the world was online, ‘fake news’ used to be called ‘urban myths’.
They were ‘facts’ that somehow everyone knew though no-one knew why or where the information came from.
Stories passed around in the workplace and social gatherings, told by parents to children, until they became embedded enough in the general consciousness to blur the line between reality and fiction.
There is an urban myth about Walt Disney which became more or less accepted as a ‘fact’ long before Facebook or Twitter were even dreamed of.
The story goes that Disney, following a diagnosis of lung cancer in 1966, had already planned for his brain to be cryogenically frozen and kept in storage until medical science found a way to provide a new body and revive him.
In 1966 of course it seemed that science was on the brink of discovering just about everything
History records that Walt Disney died of a circulatory collapse caused by his cancer and that his body was cremated before the ashes were interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
Obviously part of the myth was that this is what they wanted you to believe but, someday in the future, he would be revived and reclaim his movie empire.
Well, if it is going to happen, we may be approaching the day when it will be possible.
Professor Sergio Canavero is preparing to perform the world's first successful head transplant this December and believes the first ever brain transplant is only a few years away from also becoming a reality.
Prof Canavero, director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, said his team had made "massive progress" in experiments that "seemed impossible even as recently as a few months ago".
In an interview with German magazine Ooom, he said: "We are currently planning the world’s first brain transplant, and I consider it realistic that we will be ready in three years at the latest."
Despite the huge scientific and ethical implications of his work, Prof Canavero is pressing ahead with his ground-breaking plans, and has teamed up with Dr. Xiaoping Ren of China to carry out the world's first head transplant later this year.
The operation will be carried out at Harbin Medical University, northern China, and the patient will be Chinese, Prof Canavero said.
The biggest barrier to a successful head transplant is reconnecting the brain to the severed spinal column, in order to control movement and sensation.
But Prof Canavero insisted: "This problem has now been solved."
He said his team had successfully restored mobility to mice that had had their spinal cords entirely severed using a fluid called Texas-PEG.
He added that many controlled studies on different animals had been conducted in South Korea and China and that the results were "unambiguous".
"The spinal cord – and with it the ability to move – can be entirely restored," he said.
Plans to perform the world's first brain transplant are already underway, the surgeon said.
Despite widespread scepticism in the scientific community, Prof Canavero said a brain transplant had "many advantages".
He said: ”First, there is barely any immune reaction, which means the problem of rejection does not exist.
"The brain is, in a manner of speaking, a neutral organ."
He said one problem was the brain would be hosted in an entirely different body, the impact of which remained to be seen.
Nevertheless, Prof Canavero said he hoped to bring back to life the first patients currently frozen at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Arizona.
Should he succeed in resurrecting the dead, Prof Canavero said the implications would permanently alter mankind's understanding of the world - and that religion "will be swept away forever".
Existential angst aside, before you go out and book your own ticket to immortality you should know that the starting rate for the service is over $200,000.
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