The world’s first head transplant surgery, is set to happen early next year in China. While this headline will sound straight out of a Hollywood film, this is set to happen in reality. In fact, the surgery was set to happen in December this year, but the Russian volunteer for the surgery -Valery Spiridonov has decided not to take part in the procedure and therefore, the surgery will now happen with a Chinese volunteer. There is no definitive date set, but it is expected to happen in the first quarter of 2018.
Junk Science ?
Dr. Sergio Canavero made headlines last year when he announced his plans to perform the first human head transplant. Since the announcement, the Italian neuroscientist has recruited a Chinese surgeon Dr. Xiaoping Ren, to perform the surgery with him. The first patient to undergo this procedure is a Russian man named Valery Spiridonov suffers from Werdnig-Hoffmann Disease, a genetic disease that breaks down muscles and kills nerve cells located in the brain and spinal cord thus making him unable to move. Currently, he is confined to his wheelchair with the only possible movements being the ability to feed himself, type and control his wheelchair with a joystick.
Spiridonov had been working with Dr. Canavero for about 2 years to get the surgery however, he has now said that he will not undergo the surgery because the doctor could not promise him what he wished for from the surgery – the ability to walk again and live a normal life. The surgery does not even guarantee that he would live. He will now seek an alternative spinal surgery to improve his life instead as he said in his statement.
“Given that I cannot rely on my Italian colleague, I have to take my health into my own hands. Luckily, there is quite a well-tested surgery for cases like mine when a steel implant is used to support a spine in straight position.”
Dr. Sergio Canavero has since made a statement of his own wherein he confirmed that the surgery will instead proceed with a Chinese volunteer . Despite being criticized by the scientific community on his experiment, he is hopeful of success.
“At present, nothing in detail. When the time comes, the official news will be announced by Xiaoping’s team in China. At the moment, I can only disclose that there has been massive progress in medical experiments that would have seemed impossible even as recently as a few months ago. The milestones that have been reached will undoubtedly revolutionize medicine. That much I can already say.” ~ Sergio Canavero.
In a recent publication, the doctor has claimed that he managed to cut and reconnect the spinal cords of 9 mice as a proof-of-concept for the experiment. The spinal cords were attached using a special solution named polyethylene glycol (PEG). He believes that this same solution can be used to reattach a severed human head onto another body.
“There are so-called experts who have no experience because they have never done this before. They say ‘no this will never happen. I work on it. We have the scientists, the experts, the teams in the U.S., South Korea and China working it and when we are ready to inform the public, we will do it.”