Is the World Ready for the First Human Head Transplant?

 

Dr. Sergio Canavero

Within the next two years, an Italian surgeon announced plans to perform the first human head transplant according to Medical News Today. The lucky first person is 30-year-old Valery Spiridonov, a computer scientist from Vladimir, Russia.

The projects name is HEAVEN-GEMINI and is led by Dr. Sergio Canavero of TANG (Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group).

At the 39th Conference of the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopedic Surgeons’, Dr. Canavero will address a few of the challenges with the procedure as well as give an updated game plan.

Many experts in the medical field doubt and question the reality of the procedure and of Dr. Canavero’s plans, but each day becomes a step closer to reality.

Mr. Spiridonov has a rare genetic muscle wasting disease (Werdnig-Hoffman disease), which is referred to as type 1 SMA (spinal muscular atrophy). The disease causes a complete loss of motor neurons in the brain and the spinal chord. Most people with the condition cannot walk and cannot sit unaided.

Valery received the diagnosis as a baby and told an online magazine that he wanted the HEAVEN-GEMINI procedure to have the opportunity to have a new body before he passes away.

He said, “That many with this disease do not live to the age of 20 and I’m now 30. I need help every day, every minute of every day. I can hardly control my body now.”

Dr. Canavero has said he received several requests from others wanted the procedure, mostly transgendered wanting a new body. Dr. Canavero rejected the requests and stated only those with muscle wasting diseases would be considered.

The surgery will take over 100 surgeons and take more than 36 hours to complete. It will involve SCF (Spinal Cord Fusion). An incredibly sharp blade will be used to remove the donor hears to limit the damage to the spinal chord.

In a paper released earlier this year, Dr. Canavero stated, “The SCF key is a sharp severance to the cords. This is a key point.”

The donor’s body spinal cord will be fused with the recipient’s head spinal cord. Polyethylene glycol and chitosan (chemical) will help with the spinal cord fusion. Next, the blood supply and muscles will be sutured.

The patient will stay in a coma for a month. During this time the spinal cord will receive electrical stimulation to boost the new nerve connections.

Dr. Canavero believes with physical therapy the new recipient will be able to walk within a year.