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How a horror story haunts science

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Science  12 Jan 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6372, pp. 148-150
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6372.148

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  • RE: FRANKENSTEIN'S LEGACY
    • sergio canavero, neurosurgeon, HEAVEN GEMINI GLOBAL INITIATIVE
    • Other Contributors:
      • xiaoping Ren, Microsurgeon (Orthopedic), HEAVEN GEMINI GLOBAL INITIATIVE

    FRANKENSTEIN’S LEGACY

    FRANKENSTEIN does not represent an existential risk, and cannot be conflated with gene editing, AI, nuclear proliferation or other end-of-life-as-we-know-it cataclysms. It is this kind of cavalier treatment that brought disgrace upon the Head Anastomosis Venture (HEAVEN) (1). Dr Frankenstein’s assembling a chimera out of body parts from different dead individuals and then breathing life back into these dead tissues has to do with immortality, and immortality only, not eliminating “women’s role in reproduction”. And no one can argue against mankind’s longing for more life.
    As we announced the completion of the first full human rehearsal of a cephalosomatic anastomosis (neither a head or a body transplant) in November 2017 (2) and provided final proof that one does not have to reconnect “all the nerves within the spinal cord” to restore motor and sensory function (3-4), the first true step towards life extension has been taken, which is likely more interesting than “George Church’s ambitious plan to resurrect Neandertal man”. Harnessing heterochronic parabiosis, the possibility to rejuvenate an aging brain by reattaching it to a younger body is no longer science fiction. There is nothing cataclysmic here: one day, when human cloning gains acceptance, the possibility for all of us to receive a new young “us” without the toxicity that comes from immune suppression will open up the gates to a new world (this is where genetic engineering will b...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.