In a world of modern medicine it seems as if virtually any organ can be transplanted from one human to another, including hearts, livers, lungs, and more. Dr. Sergio Canavero plans to take these established and complex procedures to the next level. This Italian surgeon has devised a plan for the first ever human head transplantation.
Dr. Sergio Canavero plans to take these established and complex procedures to the next level. This Italian surgeon has devised a plan for the first ever human head transplantation.
Dr. Canavero announced Project HEAVEN-GEMINI in July 2013 and has finally found a willing participant, Valery Spiridonov. Spiridonov is a Russian man living with Werdnig-Hoffman disease, also known as type-one spinal muscular atrophy. Spiridonov is confined to a wheelchair and can only perform very minimal muscular movements. Although he is anxious about the radical procedure, Spiridonov is prepared to accept the risks of this new-age technology because he does not “really have many choices.” Most patients with Werdnig-Hoffman disease do not live past the age of twenty, and so thirty-year-old Spiridonov feels privileged to have survived this long and will do anything to improve his current quality of life.
The procedure itself, scheduled for December 2017, will be incredibly extensive. Dr. Canavero expects the actual head transplantation to require about one hundred surgeons and last approximately thirty-six hours. The donor head will be severed with an extremely sharp blade to minimize possible damage, and then the donor spinal cord will be attached to Spiridonov’s head. Following the surgery, Spiridonov will be in an induced coma for three to four weeks, giving the spinal cord ample time to form proper nerve connections. Dr. Canavero estimates that Spiridonov will be able to walk within one year of the procedure.
Many scientists and doctors believe Canavero is out of his mind, mostly due to the fact that Canavero is heavily relying on the research of Dr. Robert White, who performed a monkey head transplant in 1970. The monkey survived for only eight days.
As with any newfangled and unconventional idea, this head transplant procedure has received plenty of criticism. Many scientists and doctors believe Canavero is out of his mind, mostly due to the fact that Canavero is heavily relying on the research of Dr. Robert White, who performed a monkey head transplant in 1970. The monkey survived for only eight days. Certain scientists believe White’s work is outdated. According to Canavero, however, with the technology of today and his team’s determination, “We can already do this.” Project HEAVEN-GEMINI is scheduled to occur relatively soon, but a surgical center for this risky procedure has yet to be found. The doctor hopes to find a medical center in the United States, but if this does not come to fruition, he has his sights set on China.
A head transplant is indeed a highly complex and drastic medical procedure, but a heart transplant was just as unbelievable no less than fifty years ago. It is possible that Dr. Canavero will become the face of a new branch of medicine that will remarkably improve the countless lives of those who have lost all hope to ever walk again.
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Whiteman, Honor. “30-year-old Russian Man Volunteers for World’s First Human Head Transplant.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, 16 June 2015. Web. 26 Aug. 2015.
“World’s first head transplant patient schedules procedure for 2017.” Fox News. Fox News International Network, 15 September 2015. Web. 6 October 2015.