The world’s very first head transplant will be done in China and in less than 10 months.
This is according to neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero’s interview with the German news outlet Ooom in April of this year.
Going beyond the controversy and ethical considerations – which are many – , this revolutionary surgery has the scientific community on the edge of their seats.
Just a few months ago, Valery Spiridonov named to be the first patient to undergo the transplant. However, the young man decided to decline the offer. Now the man everyone now knows as the 21st-century “Frankenstein” will be a Chinese patient whose name remains anonymous.
In the coming months, this person will be the first person to undergo a head transplant.
A neurosurgeon’s dream, a challenge that science has not yet met
Sergio Canavero is a member of the Advanced Neuromodulation Group in Turin, Italy.
As he explained in the interview, his dream as a scientist has been to become the first doctor to perform a successful head transplant.
“Successful” is the key word here. Up to now, all attempts done on animals have failed.
Dr. Canavero explains that technology has not been up to the task of such a challenge. However, now there are fewer technological obstacles, more qualified professionals, and much more sophisticated means. All of this significantly ups the chance of success.
On the other hand, despite a large part of the scientific community being against it, our 21st century “Frankenstein” bases part of his work on the only person to have transplanted the head of a primate onto another body. This milestone was achieved by Dr. Robert White in the 1970’s. However, he did not manage to connect the most vital part: the nervous system.
It was in 2013 when neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero wrote an article where he explained the viability of the head transplant with a series of evident reasons. This includes the fact that we now have the technology to establish a proper connection with the spinal cord.
The project–it seems–is more than viable.
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A head transplant: a coming reality?
If nothing changes, the first head transplant will be performed in China this year, in 2017. According to Dr. Canavero, it could mean several things.
- The ability to give paraplegics back their mobility.
- The recipient of the “new body” may be able to avoid diseases like cancer, nerve degeneration, and many other serious medical conditions.
Nevertheless, the ethical implications, as well as the ethical-religious controversies, follow the person responsible for this scientific dream.
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A new patient, new date, and new stage for the first surgery
Valery Spiridonov was the prized patient “0,” up until now. This man suffered from spinal muscular atrophy and had a very small chance at life.
However, after two years of work with Dr. Canavero, the doctor couldn’t promise him what he so wished for: that he would walk again, be able to have a normal life, or that he would even survive the surgery.
Thus, the young Russian decided to undergo a much more “conservative” surgery. It would let him face his remaining days with less pain and more dignity.
Meanwhile, Dr. Sergio Canavero has found another disabled patient with serious mobility problems to continue his project with.
The country that offered the most assistance hat was chosen was China. In a recent press conference in China, they announced that the revolutionary surgery would take place in a hospital specially prepared for it.
The exact date is not yet known. However, the operation will take at least 72 hours.
So far, it all seems to be looking up. The risk of rejection, for example, is nonexistent, they explained, because the brain is a “neutral” organ, unlike the heart, liver, or kidneys.
Fortunately, they have the best team and the best means.
Hopes are very high and all that’s left is to await the outcome of this project. As amazing, controversial and nerve-wracking as it may be, it may turn the world of science and medicine upside down.
Meanwhile, we’ll be awaiting new information…