A piece of news that stopped us in our tracks is that in the not too distant future head transplants will become a reality.
The Italian born surgeon Sergio Canavero has said that the first head transplant could take place as early as 2017. The New Scientist has reported that he is expected to announce plans for the radical proposal at the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons (AANOS) conference in Maryland, US, this June.
The technique he would use for this radical procedure would see the recipient’s head, and the donor body would be cooled before the spinal cords being cut and the head moved on to the donor body. The ends of the spinal cord would then be fused together.
The patient would then be placed into a coma for around four weeks to prevent them from moving while they heal. Once awakened, the patient would speak with the same voice.
Cannavaro has revealed that he wants to use the surgery to help those who have suffered degeneration of the muscles and nerves or those who have advanced cancer.
He told the New Scientist: “If society doesn’t want it, I won’t do it. But if people don’t want it, in the US or Europe, that doesn’t mean it won’t be done somewhere else.
“I’m trying to go about this the right way, but before going to the moon, you want to make sure people will follow you.”
Mr Canavero, a surgeon from the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, first proposed the idea of the surgery in 2013 and no surprise that some have questioned whether the proposed procedure would actually work.
Harry Goldsmith, a clinical professor of neurological surgery at the University of California, Davis, told the New Scientist: “I don’t believe it will ever work, there are too many problems with the procedure.
“Trying to keep someone healthy in a coma for four weeks – it’s not going to happen.”
In 1970 scientists completed a head transplant using a monkey in Cleveland, US but tragically the monkey’s immune system rejected the head, and nine days later it died.
Of course to hear that a medical advance such as this could aid cancer sufferers is great news and one can only wonder how people like Christopher Reeve would welcome the idea, but is it me or is this too science fiction? Did Mary Shelley ever really believe that one day a real-life Dr Victor Frankenstein would actually attempt to create his own ‘monster’?
Excuse the rather poor pun, but I just cannot get my head around it. Advancements in all fields I champion, but you certainly would not want to be the first to go under Mr Canavero’s knife, would you?
Dr Canavero said that if science reaches the stage when human cloning is easy, a 60-year-old could make a copy of themselves. They could then put their old head on a new, healthy body made from their own DNA – meaning they would keep their memories and personality.
However, that said surely the flip side is, is this really actually a ‘body transplant’? So could we request a new body if say we had the money and we were not too happy with our existing one, purely on aesthetic grounds? Kind of beats going to the gym!
Until next time…