Controversial team selected for head transplant operation scheduled for December 2017
Italian neuro-scientist Sergio Canavero earlier this year had shocked the world when he announced that he would be performing the world’s first human head transplant. This week at a science conference in north-east China, the controversial doctor said that he has selected his team of surgeons and the likely date and location for the first-ever human head transplant have been set for December 2017.
After Canarevo announced his plans to cut off a man’s head and put it onto another body, he drew a lot of fascination and criticism for the same. There were many of them who believed that the operation would probably never happen until the team was announced.
According to Russia Today, Canarevo is hoping to finish the procedure, which will take 36-hours, and cost $11 million by December 2017.
The operation is set to take place at a hospital affiliated to Harbin Medical University in Heilongjiang, China with a team made up largely of doctors from the country. The already highly-controversial operation has given rise to a lot of concerns, as China has been criticized for using the organs of executed prisoners without their permission.
Doctors have condemned the procedure widely saying that will probably kill the person undergoing it, and that if he does survive he will undergo something a “lot worse than death”.
A 30-year-old Russian man, Valery Spiridonov, has volunteered for the procedure in the hope of living a more normal life. The computer scientist suffers from a rare motor neuron disease known as Werdnig-Hoffmann Disease. The disease causes motor neurons, the nerve cells responsible for sending signals from the central nervous system to your muscles to deteriorate, which leads to muscle atrophy and in severe cases, difficulty swallowing and breathing. Currently, there is no treatment for this disease.
The spinal cord of the donor body will then be fused with the spinal cord of the recipient’s head. Chemicals called polyethylene glycol or chitosan can be used to encourage SCF, according to Dr. Canavero. The muscles and blood supply will then be sutured.”
“The recipient will be kept in a coma for around 3-4 weeks, says Dr. Canavero, during which time the spinal cord will be subject to electrical stimulation via implanted electrodes in order to boost the new nerve connections.”
“The surgeon estimates that – with the help of physical therapy – the patient would be able to walk within 1 year.”
When the patient wakes up after the surgery, he should be able to move, feel his face and even speak with the same voice. Powerful immunosuppressant drugs should stop the new body from being rejected.
Ren Xiaoping, who will join forces with Canavero to try and attempt the procedure in the next two years, said that the team will only attempt it if research and tests show that it is likely to be successful. Since 2013, he has conducted 1,000 head transplants on mice and plans to perform the operation on primates this year.
Testing various methods to stop the mice rejecting their new bodies, or heads, he has managed to reach a survival rate of one day – but there is clearly much work to be done to give a human any chance of survival.
With the human operation, the new body would come from a transplant donor who is brain dead but otherwise healthy.
Ren has refused to comment on where the donated body might be found. There are some who are concerned that the donated body may be an executed prisoner’s body.
In China, an industry of forced donations and a black market for the sale of organs have flourished, as the huge population and a low number of donations have led to a high demand for organs.
China is very interested in participating in the procedure as a way of showing its eagerness for scientific research to the world said Canavero, likening the race to finish the transplant to the space race. The Italian doctor said that he has “been studying Chinese for a few years,” as he has identified that he could go to jail for carrying out the procedure in an unfriendly country.
The procedure is just a first step towards his final goal of immortality said the doctor.
The author Kavita Iyer
An individual, optimist, homemaker, foodie, a die hard cricket fan and most importantly one who believes in Being Human