A medical project whose goal will be to successfully transplant a human head will be launched later this year. Sergio Canavero of Turin, Italy, announced plans to form a surgical team to perform this transplant operation by 2017. Back in 2013, he gave the world its first heads up about his intentions. The placing of a head from one individual onto the body of another are called head transplants and not body transplants, primarily because of legacy naming conventions initiated in the 20th-century, when these types of transplant operations were first attempted on animals. All of those transplants failed due to immune rejection of the transplanted head by the host body. Transplant technology has significantly evolved since then, so immunological concerns are no longer deemed to be paramount. None of the 20th-century attempts ever tried to connect the transplanted head’s spinal cord to that of the host body’s, leaving those animals paralyzed from the neck down.
Canavero plans on connecting the severed spinal cords and expects the patient to gain full use of their new body. One highly experimental technique that he plans on using is to fuse the two spinal cords together using baths of polyethylene glycol, which has shown promise in aiding the fats in cell membranes to mesh together. After the two spinal cord ends have healed together, a yearlong process of physical therapy will retrain the neural pathways and teach the patient how to use their new body.
This is all very hard for me to get my head around. It seems like an idea more out of science fiction than medical science. In fact the original Star Trek TV series envisioned just such an operation in the episode, Spock’s Brain. In this episode Spock’s brain is stolen by pesky aliens and Doctor McCoy is tasked to reinstall it into Spock’s brainless body. It was one of the more mindless episodes of that TV series.
This type of transplant operation is envisioned to be performed for patients with bodies that are riddled with cancer or are suffering from a degenerative nerve and muscle disease. Typically, early adopters of such novel and radical medical procedures do not fare all that well, but volunteers are already lining up for the chance at a new body. As with any new medical procedure, ethical concerns are important to consider. This one is more fraught with danger than most. The opportunity for late-night talk show ridicule is a forgone certainty.
Dan left today, he flew back to LA. We all got up early this morning to give him a big send off. I dropped him off at the airport, on my way into work. I didn’t get a chance to take a last minute photograph of him, so I’m substituting this picture of his Jayne’s hat instead. Anne knitted it for him and here it is seen mounted on our dining room table’s holiday centerpiece. He got out-of-town just before the mercury began its long decent. I think that the high for the day occurred while I was hugging him outside of departures.
While we were in Chicago last week, we visited the Museum of Contemporary Art. There I bought a wall calendar for my cube at work. This is in addition to the left-handed desk calendar that Joanie gave me. This particular calendar couldn’t have cost more than a buck to make. I paid $14 for mine and you can see a picture of it at this website, where the price is $25. I think that this calendar is a very clever and fun idea. Very few things in life are as satisfying as popping bubble wrap. So why shouldn’t you partake in it more often? How about every day? This poster-size bubble calendar allows you to do just that. Each day of the year has a bubble to pop. There are even bonus bubbles at the end of those months that have less than 31 days. All days of the week and U.S. holidays are marked, plus the weekends are in bold for quick reference. It is made in Brooklyn.
I was impressed enough with the concept to purchase a calendar, but the impression that it has created on my co-workers is even more extraordinary. First off, it is big. It was hard to mount in my cube. Also, I try to time my bubble bursting for maximum office disruption. Yes folks, I’m just seeking attention. Mondays are going to be the best day of the week, because then I’ll have three bubbles to pop. There are also those days that I come back from vacation on, like this last Monday, when I’ll have even more bursting bubbles to pop. Some of my co-workers have threatened to burst my bubbles for me, but their just being party poopers and not party poppers and so far this hasn’t occurred. Being all engineers, many have remarked on how easy it would be to make one for themselves. This would be cheaper and maybe even more fun than just buying one, but they wouldn’t be first and therein lies the value of an idea, which is what I mainly paid for.
We’re back from Chicago-land. It was a mini-vacation within our much longer winter break. It lasted just 48 hours, but we managed to pack a lot in to it. We did four museums, the observation deck of the John Hancock building, plus other attractions. The photo was taken from the observation deck of the John Hancock building, it is from our last night there. Here is a list of the attractions that we hit:
Art Institute of Chicago
Chicago Cultural Center
Museum of Science and Industry
Museum of Contemporary Art
John Hancock Building
It was just cra-cra-crazy cold up there. Some sort of polar vortex must have blown into town just after we arrived. Walking into the wind on Michigan Ave. felt like enhanced interrogation. I barely had the skill set, let alone the clothes, to hack it. One nice thing about the Windy City is that it is also a foodie paradise. The takeaway being we ate too much. I picked up some swag at the Contemporary Art Museum; they curate a great gift shop there. I got a 2015 wall calendar made from bubble wrap. I can almost hardly wait to get back to work so that I can start popping off the days. We all tried to get Dave to accompany us, but to no avail. I’ll have to be doing some friend-raising there in 2015. The important thing though is that BAE* Anne had a good time on this little trip to Chicago-nation.
* Before Anyone Else – one of the banned words or phrases on the 2015 Lake Superior State University list of banned words. Using them is almost better than swearing.