BY KEVIN SAWYER – An acclaimed and swashbuckling Italian neurosurgeon looks to perform the first human head transplant and he has a young Russian volunteer whose head needs a new body. Dr. Sergio Canavero has a flamboyant gun fighter’s mentality and he truly believes he will pull it off.
Canavero, 51, has publicly made reference to himself in the same sentence as the fictional Dr. Victor Frankenstein. He has also mentioned the work and nightmarish human experiments of the Nazi sociopath surgeon, Dr. Joseph Mengele. He is much respected in his field and has been widely published in the medical journals. Oh, and in his spare time, the dashing Italian surgeon also wrote a guide on how to successfully seduce women. He is Italian, after all…
Canavero’s critics, of course, are legion. Most simply shrug it off to mere lunacy and believe that Canavero really hasn’t thought through how to successfully attach a spinal cord to a head. Canavero looks to perform the operation at the end of next year and will do it in one of the most advanced operating theaters in the world. The operation could cost as much as $10 million and is likely to last around 36 hours. He will reveal more of his plans in September.
And, now, for the rest of the cast…
Dr. Xiaoping Ren, 55, a respected Chinese neurosurgeon looks to assist. He was part of the team that recently successfully transplanted a human hand onto a patient. Chinese doctors have already performed successful head transplants on mice and Dr. Ren was part of a team that had, earlier this year, successfully transplanted a monkey’s head.
Finally, we have the volunteer who wants a new body. His name is 31 year old Valery Spiridonov and he is a computer scientist that runs his own software company from his home office. Spiridonov suffers from a degenerative disease that confines him to a wheelchair. The disease attacks his muscles and the spinal neurons that control motor function. He can type, feed himself and operate the joystick to his wheelchair and that’s all. The rare spinal disease, called Werdnig-Hoffmann Disease, is fatal, there is no cure and his doctors expected him to be dead by now.
Of the surgery, Spiridonov said, “My decision is final and I do not plan on changing my mind. Am I afraid? Yes, of course I am. But, you have to understand that I really don’t have many choices. If I don’t try this, my fate will be very sad.”
The procedure will entail a 30 year old donor’s healthy body being attached to Spiridonov’s head. Canavero looks to use something called polyethylene glycol to attach the nerves and fuse the spinal cord to Spiridonov’s head. Spiridonov will be induced into a comatose state so that the head won’t move around during the operation and through recovery. He will also be given certain drugs so that, hopefully, the body and the head don’t reject one another.
Back in 1971, Dr. Robert White of the Case-Western University School of Medicine successfully transplanted a monkey head onto the body of another monkey. His monkey was unable to breathe and eventually died after eight days because the new body rejected the head.
PHOTO CREDITS: Reuters / Shiftdelete.net