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Saturday 11 July 2020

First human head transplant next year?

Glasgow: Italian neurosurgeon, Sergio Canavero, who intends to perform the first ever human head transplant is considering doing the procedure in the United Kingdom.

Speaking at a function in Glasgow, Canavero, oven criticized for his maverick ideas, said that Britain is the “most promising place” in Europe for the operation. He added, “Because I had so much good feedback from Britain, from surgeons, that I do believe that it could get real traction if we push it hard here. So it is time for you here in Britain to start discussing all the ethical implications and if you are willing to see this happen here, because if the UK says no then it will be somewhere else. But in Europe the UK really looks like the most promising place.”

The volunteer is Russian Valery Spiridinov, whose head will be frozen and cut off from his body and then attached to a donor body next year. Mr Spiridinov is suffering from Werdnig-Hoffman disease.

Image result for head transplant
Valery Spiridonov, the patient

During the function Canavero unveiled new virtual reality system which is designed to prepare patients for life in a new body.

The system has been created by a US firm Inventum Bioengineering Technologies whose chief executive Alexander Pavlovcik said, “In preparing the patient of Heaven (Head Anastomosis Venture) to transition into a new body, virtual reality training will be used before the surgical procedure to prevent the occurrence of unexpected psychological reactions.

A special knife that can control cuts to a micrometre (one millionth of a metre) has been developed by Farid Amirouche at the University of Illinois for cutting the spinal cord, which is considered the most delicate part of the head transplant operation.

According to Dr Canavero’s procedure, after the spinal cord is cut, the head is moved and the two ends of the spinal cord are fused using a chemical called polyethylene glycol, which causes growth of nerves in animals. Once the fusing is done, the patient is to be kept in coma for a month, while electrodes stimulate the spinal cord to strengthen its new connections.

The details of the procedure has been mentioned here.

Critics have warned that the experience could be traumatic and “worse than death”. A previous 1970s attempt to perform a head transplant experiment on a monkey led an observer to claim that this was “bad science” and “unethical.”

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