[ExI] Jarheads

Rafal Smigrodzki rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com
Sun Jun 8 03:36:35 UTC 2014

On Fri, Jun 6, 2014 at 2:55 PM, Tara Maya <tara at taramayastales.com> wrote:
> I can't help but think of Futurama's Heads in Jars.

### Let's think about it! You need the following components, all of them
only about 20% of regular human size or less:

1. Heart - can be impeller-driven, already available,
2. Lung - could be grown from a 3D printed scaffold, small rodent size
alpha release versions already available. Could use donor tissue, a small
bit of lung would be enough
3. Liver - can be definitely grown in the lab
4. Kidney - not yet grown but could use a small bit of donor kidney
5. Hematopoietic tissue - doable, maybe could induce hematopoiesis in the
liver or even skull marrow
6. Vascular system - doable today, can be 3D printed and seeded
7. Various endocrine tissues - bits of endocrine pancreas, adrenals, could
use donor tissue

We dispense with GI tract, GU organs except kidney, skeleton, muscle. Would
block items 1 - 7 in a compact unit, pump purified air in, have a
continuous IV nutrient feed, continuous urine and bile removal (no bladder
or gallbladder). The whole unit sown to the head vascular supply, with no
other connections to it - so it's easy to cut it off and attach a new one.
The neck stump completely covered with skin with only vascular access port
and maybe a sterile air port for speech generation. Both life support unit
and head in a sterile enclosure, so the immune system can wiped out and you
can have a unit made from multiple donor tissues without immunosuppressive
drugs. I would keep the upper spinal cord attached and the brachial plexus
nerves grafted to neck muscles for trophic support. Motor commands and some
sensory input could be routed through these nerves. All this mounted on a
motorized trolley.

Running costs would not be extreme, IV nutrition is a commodity item, there
would be no need for continuous supply of any human-derived products, no
complex external devices (dialysis, artificial liver, artificial
oxygenation), only an air pump with filter, power to the heart. No nursing
costs, although cleaning the head might have to be done occasionally. The
trolley would have prosthetic arms to allow the user to self-service and
generally get stuff done. I would remove hair with laser, so there would be
no need for haircuts. One donorcycle body could supply organs for maybe as
many as 10 jarheads.

This could be technically doable in the not-too-distant future. The main
limitation would be dementia in the head, but if the donor tissues were
young heterochronic - who knows how long the brain could potter along.

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