Science & Enterprise subscription

Please share Science & Enterprise

RSS
Follow by Email
Facebook
Facebook
Google+
Twitter
Visit Us
LinkedIn

Affiliations

Will 2017 Be The Year Of The First Human Head Transplant?

– Contributed content –

18 September 2017. If you’ve read this question, no doubt your head is spinning with the thought that we are already three-quarters of the way through the year, so there isn’t much time left alongside images of Frankenstein and questionable medical ethics. Surgeon Sergio Canavero is adamant that a human head transplant is doable and can result in a quadriplegic individual, in time, regaining full use of a body, albeit not the one they were born with. This medical procedure sounds like it belongs in the realm of science fiction. However, 2017 may be the year that this operation is carried out.

Surgery

(skeeze, Pixabay)

What will Dr. Canavero do?

The head to be transplanted and the donor body needs to be cooled to approximately 13 degrees Celsius to ensure their preservation without oxygen. Following the severing of the blood vessels and tissues of the neck, the spinal cord is then cut. The already headless body is then ready to have the head connected to it. The procedure is long and complex with major blood vessels, nerves and tissues needing to be joined with delicacy. The two spinal cords will be merged with polyethylene glycol which has been proven to promote the growth of spinal cords in rats.

Once the operation is complete, the patient will be kept in an induced coma for at least a month allowing minimal movement to the neck. When the patient awakens, Canavero has suggested that the patient will be able to move and talk whereas walking would be relearned within twelve months with the aid of intense therapy.

Surgery

(skeeze, Pixabay)

Controversy

It’s not just us mere lay people who recoil in horror at the thought of such a procedure. The operation and processes involved in carrying out a full head transplant seem simplistic. The fact that both the transplantee and the donor need to be clinically dead before being brought back to life leaves most people skeptical at best and appalled at worst.

The medical profession sees this leap forward in transplanting organs as pure fantasy. As discussed on the site Human Paragon, the ability to transplant artificial organs is already a reality. In 2010, the first artificial kidney was transplanted, and artificial lungs have been utilized for decades. Animal valves and tissues have also been transplanted in patients with weakened hearts and damaged organs. It is quite a leap to suggest that a human head could be transplanted successfully.

There is much speculation that Canavero won’t end up carrying out his procedure due to the potential legal ramifications. Imagine the situation: a qualified surgeon performing an unproven and untested procedure on a human, only for this human to awaken in debilitating pain, before dying a terrible, painful death.

The question of ethics is also mooted. Why perform a head transplant merely because you can? It doesn’t make it the right thing to do even if it could be successful, which looks highly unlikely at the moment.

Dr. Sergio Canavero is a maverick, alone in the world of medical science striving to complete something that, if it miraculously works, could see his name go down in history as the founder of bringing people back from the dead. He could also become infamous as a fantasist who brought nothing but shame to the medical profession with crackpot ideas and Frankenstein like theories.

*     *     *

Please share Science & Enterprise ...

Comments are closed.