Cloning for Brain Transplants

Is it possible to live forever through cloning and brain transplants?

If I have the money, and provided science makes some medical breakthroughs within the next 60 years, do you think I can clone myself, raise the clone till it's like 18, do a brain transplant, and put my brain, in the 18 year old(mindless) clone body, and keep doing so till the end of time, or at least till my brain reaches the max capacity of information. If it's not possible to do it forever, then maybe one or few extra life times could be a possibility?

Because, I don't want to die

A brain transplant or whole-body transplant is a hypothetical operation in which the brain of one organism is transplanted into the body of another. It is a procedure distinct from head transplantation, which involves transferring the entire head to a new body, as opposed to the brain only. Theoretically, a person with advanced organ failure could be given a new and functional body while keeping their own personality and memories.

Historically, brain transplants have not been feasible and were widely regarded as impossible. Today, given progress in organ transplant and human cloning research, many scientists hold that brain transplants are theoretically possible and likely to be feasible in the future.

Brain transplants and similar concepts have been explored in various forms of fiction.

One of the most significant barriers to the procedure is the inability of nerve tissue to heal properly; scarred nerve tissue does not transmit signals well (this is why a spinal cord injury is so devastating). However, recent research at the Wistar Institute of the University of Pennsylvania involving tissue-regenerating mice (known as MRL mice) may provide pointers for further research as to how to regenerate nerves without scarring.

There is also a potential problem of the new interface at the spinal cord, in that even if all the nerves are connected successfully, they may still be connected wrongly, thus not transmitting the same information as the same nerve connection in the previous body. For example, a nerve that used to control the right index finger's muscle group might be connected to a different finger's muscle group or another body part entirely. If this were to happen to a large number of connections, the person undergoing the transplant might end up with a body which transmitted sensory input to the wrong destination, making it incomprehensible and potentially requiring many years of rehabilitation.

A whole head might be kept alive for various reasons in the future. You may find that an entirely new body will be constructed to take the place of the old one, as headless accident victims will be in short supply. A new robotic body (hybrid creatures of this sort are called cyborgs) could be available plus you might get a whole wardrobe full of new bodies for different occasions. A new body could be cloned by a yet undetermined method which produces a force grown body with no head; so there you are with an old head on a new body - the proud citizen of the future.

Alternatively a brain–computer interface can be used connecting the subject to his own body. A study using a monkey as a subject shows that it is possible to directly use commands from the brain, bypass the spinal cord and enable hand function. An advantage is that this interface can be adjusted after the surgical interventions are done where nerves can not be reconnected without surgery.

Also, for the procedure to be practical, the age of the donated body must be sufficient: an adult brain cannot fit into a skull that has not reached its full growth, which occurs at age 9–12 years.

This presents an ethical issue as to what happens to the child’s brain that is being replaced; even if it was also your clone?

If one wanted to grow a clone that didn't have higher brain functions, you might try the "mechanical" method...just find a way of destroying the cloned fetus' brain at a relatively early point in gestation, without killing the entire fetus. Surgical removal or destruction of most of the fetus' brain, while leaving the fetus' brain stem intact would be somewhat "problematic," I'd guess. Due to intracranial bleeding and tissue inflammation, I'd recommend using an artifical womb to incubate the clone, which would allow easy access for surgical decerebrating, as well as enabling your medical team to connect the fetus to an (even more) invasive life-support system to keep it's body alive after the brain stem has been destroyed.

I'd predict a high "failure rate," though. So you should probably have at least a few-dozen clones being incubated at any given time. This would, naturally, get very "pricey" very fast.

There is an advantage, however, with respect to the immune response. The brain is an immunologically privileged organ, so rejection would not be a problem. (When other organs are transplanted, aggressive rejection can occur; this is a major difficulty with kidney and liver transplants.

Here's an idea then; (nanotech again) inject a bunch of self-replicating nanoconstructors - their task is to set up camp at a suitable site in the spinal column, remove a piece of one of the vertebrae (reinforcing the space with a stronger, more compact material), then they construct a 'universal coupling' in the space, after that, they re-route the neurons through it, (one at a time, so there is no significant disruption to the function). When the time comes to affect the transplant, the universal coupling is separated and marries it up with a similar one in the new host body.

The only tricky part is that the nanomachines have to understand the layout of the neurons in the spinal column, so that they can meaningfully connect them into the coupling and not end up with a leg motor neuron wired up to a finger etc. Well, it isn't the only tricky part, but it is certainly one of the biggies.

I particularly like the decapitation in Use of Weapons by Iain Banks . . . the head is saved and kept alive - when they ask him how he feels he says 'it's just a scratch.'

Cloning Scientists Create Human Brain Cells

Robin McKie The Observer, Sunday 29 January 2012

Scientists in Edinburgh who pioneered cloning have made a technological breakthrough that could pave the way for better medical treatment of mental illnesses and nerve diseases The news that Edinburgh scientists had created the world's first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep, at the university's Roslin Institute made headlines around the world 16 years ago. Her birth raised hopes of the creation of a new generation of medicines – with a host of these breakthroughs occurring at laboratories in the university over the following decade.

And now one of the most spectacular has taken place at Edinburgh's Centre for Regenerative Medicine, where scientists have continued to develop the technology used to make Dolly. In a series of remarkable experiments, they have created brain tissue from patients suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar depression and other mental illnesses.

The work offers spectacular rewards for doctors. From a scrap of skin taken from a patient, they can make neurones genetically identical to those in that person's brain. These brain cells, grown in the laboratory, can then be studied to reveal the neurological secrets of their condition.

"A patient's neurones can tell us a great deal about the psychological conditions that affect them, but you cannot stick a needle in someone's brain and take out its cells," said Professor Charles ffrench-Constant, the centre's director.

"However, we have found a way round that. We can take a skin sample, make stem cells from it and then direct these stem cells to grow into brain cells. Essentially, we are turning a person's skin cells into brain. We are making cells that were previously inaccessible. And we could do that in future for the liver, the heart and other organs on which it is very difficult to carry out biopsies."

The scientists are concentrating on a range of neurological conditions, including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and motor neurone disease. In addition, work is being carried out on schizophrenia and bipolar depression, two debilitating ailments that are triggered by malfunctions in brain activity. This latter project is directed by Professor Andrew McIntosh of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, who is working in collaboration with the regenerative medicine centre.

"We are making different types of brain cells out of skin samples from people with schizophrenia and bipolar depression," he said. "Once we have assembled these, we look at standard psychological medicines, such as lithium, to see how they affect these cells in the laboratory. After that, we can start to screen new medicines. Our lines of brain cells would become testing platforms for new drugs. We should be able to start that work in a couple of years."
In the past, scientists have studied brain tissue from people with conditions such as schizophrenia, but could only do so once an autopsy had been carried out. "It is very difficult to get primary tissue to study until after a patient has died," added McIntosh.

"Even then, that tissue is affected by whatever killed them and by the impact of the medication they had been taking for their condition, possibly for several decades. So having access to living brain cells is a significant development for the development of drugs for these conditions."

In addition, ffrench-Constant is planning experiments to create brain cells from patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, a disease that occurs when a person's immune system turns on his or her own nerve cells and starts destroying the myelin sheaths that protect the fibres that it uses to communicate with other nerve cells. The condition induces severe debilitation in many cases.

"The problem with MS is that we cannot predict how patients will progress," said ffrench-Constant. "In some, it progresses rapidly. In others, the damage to the myelin is repaired and they can live quite happily for many years. If we can find out the roots of the difference, we may be able to help patients."

The brain cells that make myelin and wrap it around the fibres of nerve cells are known as oligodendrocytes. "We will take skin samples from MS patients whose condition has progressed quickly and others in whom it is not changing very much.

"Then we will make oligodendrocytes from those samples and see if there is an intrinsic difference between the two sets of patients. In other words, we will see if there is an underlying difference in people's myelin-making cells that explains, when they get MS, why some manage to repair damage to their brain cells and others do not."

Once that mechanism is revealed, the route to developing a new generation of MS drugs could be opened up, he added. "It is only a hypothesis, but it is a very attractive one," said ffrench-Constant. "Crucially, stem cells will be the means of proving it."

The technology involved in this work is a direct offshoot from the science involved in making Dolly the sheep. Dolly showed that adult cells in animals were more flexible than previously thought. This paved the way for research that allows scientists to turn adult cells, such as those found in the skin, into stem cells that can then be converted into any other type of cell found in the human body.

Four basic uses for stem cells have been found: to test the toxicity of drugs; to create tissue for transplanting, for example for Parkinson's disease; to try to boost levels of a patient's own population of stem cells in order to improve their defenses against diseases; and to make models of diseases that will lead to the development of new drugs, as is being done with the Edinburgh research on brain cells.

"That is why the stem cell revolution is so important," said ffrench-Constant. "It has so much to offer, not just in the area of creating material for transplants but in areas such as making models of diseases which should then allow you, hopefully, to develop all sorts of new treatments for a condition."