An innovative head transplantation procedure for humans to be held on december
An Italian scientist Sergio Canavero has shocked the world with the announced of his project that is first human head transplant. he scheduled the procedure on December 2017, and he has recruited a head surgeon (pun intended) to lead the controversial procedure. Even though it is touch procedure, but one man is hoping it will improve his quality of life.
A 30-year-old Russian man, Valery Spiridonov, volunteered for the procedure in the hope of living a more normal life. He suffers from a rare motor neuron disease called Werdnig-Hoffmann Disease. It is characterized by degeneration of nerve cells (motor nuclei) within the lowest region of the brain (lower brainstem) and certain motor neurons in the spinal cord leading to muscle weakness of the truncal, and extremity muscles initially, followed by chewing, swallowing and breathing difficulties. Motor neurons are nerve cells that transmit nerve impulses from the spinal cord or brain (central nervous system) to muscle or glandular tissue. Currently, there is no treatment for this disease.
Spiridonov has expressed his views regarding the surgery to Central European News (CEN) as “When I realized that I could participate in something really big and important, I had no doubt left in my mind and started to work in this direction, The only thing I feel is the sense of pleasant impatience like I have been preparing for something important all my life and it is starting to happen.”
Questions and doubts regarding the surgery. Will the doctors be able to reconnect the spinal cord? Will the head reject the new body? While advances in medicine reduce the risk of rejection, the surgery is not a guaranteed success as no doctor has ever successfully reconnected a spinal cord. Spiridonov is well aware of the risks and is determined to go through with the procedure.
“According to Canavero’s calculations, if everything goes to plan, two years is the time frame needed to verify all scientific calculations and plan the procedure’s details,” Spiridonov told CEN. “It isn’t a race. No doubt, the surgery will be done once the doctor and the experts are 99 percent sure of its success.”
Cannavaro will be teaming up with Xiaoping Ren, a neurosurgeon from China’s Harbin Medical University. Ren is also an expert in head transplants as he has performed the surgery on 1,000 different mice. Following a 10-hour procedure, the mice were able to breathe, drink, and even see. Unfortunately, none of the mice survived for longer than a few minutes.
Ren has been operating on mice for an only few years; however, the first successful head transplant actually occurred nearly 50 years ago. In 1970 Dr Robert White, a surgeon at Case Western Reserve’s School of Medicine successfully transferred a rhesus monkey head to a new body. Following the procedure, the monkey survived on life support for a total of nine days before the head ultimately rejected the new body. As the spinal cord could not be reconnected the monkey body was paralyzed below the transplanted head.
The duo will spend the next two years prepping for the gruelling 36-hour surgery. After cleanly severing the spinal cord – arguably the most important part of the procedure the head will be transferred to the donor body. Then comes the really tricky part: reconnecting the spinal cord. Canavero’s technique will be to use polyethene glycol a compound known for its ability to fuse fatty cell membranes. Ren is expected to test Canavero’s technique in mice and monkeys later this year.
Many medical professionals do not show interest in this procedure. While surviving such a complicated and intricate surgery is highly unlikely, it could help restore independence for the severely disabled. And some people, like Spiridonov, feel it’s worth the risk.