Saturday December 17, 2016
Canadian creates nanotech to make head transplants less risky
more stories from this episode
- Lab weed is weak and it's a research problem
- Canadian smarts behind 'driving while high' breathalyzer
- How to convince a conservative climate change skeptic
- Our brains have a hard time letting go of 'fake news'
- To fight climate change let's launch calcite into space
- Canadian creates nanotech to make head transplants less risky
- Full Episode
The closer we get to the end the year, the closer we get to the ground-breaking, if not science-fiction-sounding, head transplant surgery slated to take place in 2017. That is when the Italian surgeon, Dr. Sergio Canavero, and his team will remove the head from a terminally ill patient with a devastating muscle wasting disease. Then his head will be surgically attached to a donor body from someone whose brain is dead, but body works perfectly fine.
- First human head transplant attempt faces harsh criticism
- First successful hand transplant in Canada performed in Toronto
- Mysterious phantom pain 'cured' by virtual reality limb
To say the surgery is risky is an understatement, but thanks to a Canadian graduate student from Langley, British Columbia, it could now be significantly less risky.
William Sikkema is a Ph.D candidate in Chemistry, specializing in biomedical nanotechnology who's working out of Rice University in Houston, Texas. He helped to develop a nanotechnology tool that could help fuse the spinal cords.
The tool is a graphene nanoribbon, just one atom thick. It acts like a scaffold to help neurons know which way to grow, so that two spinal cords can reconnect. When they tested this on rats whose spines were severed to the point of paralysis, not only did their spinal cords reconnect, but the one rat that lived managed to walk again.
So now the Italian surgeon conducting the head transplant plans on using Sikkema's novel neural scaffold nanotechnolgy tool.
- Rice University press release: Graphene nanoribbons show promise for healing spinal injuries
- Paper in SURGICAL NEUROLOGY INTERNATIONAL: Spinal cord fusion with PEG-GNRs (TexasPEG): Neurophysiological recovery in 24 hours in rats
- National Post story: Read more about William Sikkema's contribution and surgeon, Sergio Canavero