Surgeon Sergio Canavero will be embarking on a project to implement the world’s first human head transplant.
It’s a fascinating concept. You have an otherwise perfectly healthy head on a body that no longer functions. You have, also, an otherwise perfectly healthy donor body. What if you could take the head from its non-functioning body and transplant it onto the healthy body?
It seems like the stuff of science-fiction (and it has been), but it’s not, perhaps, as impossible as it sounds. Take, for instance, the work of Russian transplant pioneer Vladimir Demikhov, who in the 1950s successfully transplanted dogs’ heads onto the bodies of other dogs, creating living two-headed dogs (the linked video contains content that may be disturbing for some viewers). Or Doctor Robert White, who transplanted the head of one monkey on to the body of another in 1970 (the same warning applies).
The experiments of both scientists proved vital for the advancement of transplant techniques. But the animals didn’t survive very long; Dr. White’s monkey lived for just nine days before dying of transplant immunorejection.
However, Surgeon Sergio Canavero, director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group in Italy, who first proposed a serious attempt at human head transplant in 2013, believes he has developed a technique that circumvents the difficulties experienced by Demikhov and White.
White’s monkey, in particular, provides a fertile case for examining what can go wrong. No attempt was made to join the spinal cord of the transplanted head onto the host body, so the monkey was paralyised from the neck down and required artificial assistance in order to breathe.
Since that time, experimentation with head transplants has been minimal, but Dr. Canavero believes that our knowledge of surgery techniques and how the human body works has caught up. “I think we are now at a point when the technical aspects are all feasible,” he told New Scientist.
In a paper published in Surgical Neurology International, he has outlined his technique….
By Michelle Starr – CNet.com –