An italian doctor proposes the most extreme intervention: Head Transplant
When we talk about a head transplant we think of Dr. Frankenstein, but in this case we talk about the neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero. In 2013, Canavero launched the idea that he has been dedicating to his work as a neurosurgeon at the Molinette hospital in Turin.
He recently claimed to have “successfully” performed a head transplant on a monkey. But did he? While the monkey head did apparently survive the procedure, it never regained consciousness, it was only kept alive for 20 hours for “ethical reasons” and there was no attempt made at connecting the spinal cord, so even if the monkey had survived long-term it would have been paralysed for life. So, it was a successful procedure, if you consider paralysis, lack of consciousness and a lifespan of less than a day as indicators of “success”.
In 2015 the first volunteer was presented: Valery Spiridonov. He announced that he will become the subject of the first human head transplant ever performed, saying he would volunteer to have his head removed. The thirty year old Russian suffers from a progressive genetic disease that made him paralyzed from the neck down.
In simple terms, Canavero’s idea is to use the part of the body from the neck down a dead donor and attach it to the head of a person suffering from severe paralysis.
There are 5 critical points of the intervention:
- AT COLD. The recipient’s brain is cooled and maintained at 15 degrees for the duration of the operation.
- SKIN AND MUSCLES. On the lower part of the neck of both bodies the skin and muscles are dissected.
- TOWARDS THE INSIDE. It is then the turn of the cranial nerves, of the trachea and of the esophagus.
- VENES AND ARTERIES. The arteries that supply the brain and the veins are dissected and clamped.
- IN THE MIDDLE. Finally the vertebrae and the marrow are severed.
The last step is the most critical: the part of the riceiver is transferred to the donor’s body and all parts are reconnected.
It can be done?
Requests to comment on the feasibility or at least the plausibility of the operation, the reactions range from rejection to consider it a sort of science fiction possibility.
However, even going to the moon seemed like a utopia, maybe in the future, doing a head transplant will be like doing a simple operation. Although successfully transplanting with today’s technologies is still impossible. A very common problem in organ transplants is rejection. In the case of whole body parts taken from a dead donor the massive intake of anti-rejection drugs is a heavy price to pay. Even assuming that these issues are overcome remains the key problem still considered insurmountable: reconnect the thousands of nerves in the marrow to recover the possibility of transmitting the impulses from the brain to the rest of the body.