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Surgeon plans first head transplant in humans
An Italian surgeon wants to transplant a human head onto another body for the first time. Transplantation should be possible at the latest in two years. International external critics have medical and ethical concerns about the project. The controversial project will be presented in a few days.
Disconnect a patient's head and place on a healthy body
The message is reminiscent of the famous film classic "Frankenstein", in which a researcher creates a new being from several body parts. This may not have to be “science fiction”. As the news agency dpa reports, according to the will of Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero in 2017, it should be a reality to sever a patient's head and put it on a healthy body. The doctor from Turin has announced that he wants to transplant a human head for the first time.
Voluntary patients have been found
The project is to be presented at a specialist conference in the USA in June. Voluntary patients have already been found. Canavero told the science magazine "New Scientist": "I think we are now at the point that all technical aspects are feasible." However, experts consider his plans not only unethical, but also not feasible. "That's impossible. That is speculative, and there is no sign of the broadest horizon, ”said Professor Edgar Biemer of the German Press Agency. Biemer was involved in a spectacular arm transplant in Germany.
Little is known about the doctor
It is reported that Canavero went into hiding before his lecture at the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopedic Surgery (AANOS) convention and little is known about his previous positions. According to AANOS, he has been dealing with the possibility of a head transplant for 30 years. According to the "New Scientist", Canavero first wants to cool down the bodies of the brain-dead donor and recipient before the operation, which is said to involve hundreds of doctors, so that the cells can survive as long as possible without oxygen. Then it is crucial to separate the spinal cord cleanly, since the connection between the head and spinal cord is the biggest hurdle.
"It will not work"
"If I separate a spinal cord from my head, that's it, and once and for all," said Professor Veit Braun, chief neurosurgery doctor at the Diakonie Klinikum Siegen, at the request of dpa. "That won't work." At best, you have a patient with a functioning brain who has no control over the body. "This is very unethical." According to the report, Canavero wants to achieve the compound with the substance polyethylene glycol (PEG). The two ends of the spinal cord resembled two tightly packed bundles of spaghetti, which are supposed to be stimulated with the help of PEG to bond - similar to how hot water makes dry spaghetti stick together.
Head transplants so far only in animals
According to the New Scientist, there have been several similar experiments on animals. For example, the Russian doctor Vladimir Demikhov created a two-headed dog in the 1950s. And Professor Robert White of the Metro Health Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, transplanted a monkey head in 1970. However, the experimental animals generally lived only a few days after the interventions. In addition, White did not connect the nerve strands, so that the rhesus monkeys could breathe but could not move. In 2013, the Chinese Ren Xiaoping managed to transplant a mouse head. Ren Xiaoping explained that Canavero's experiment was based on his basic knowledge. "Last year he contacted me and asked for advice on the operation," said the researcher from the Chinese "Volkszeitung".
„I need a new body "
According to Canavero's plans, the patient should remain in a coma for about three to four weeks. When he wakes up, he should be able to speak and run physiotherapy after one year. The intervention is expected to take around 36 hours and cost ten million euros. The 30-year-old Russian programmer Valery Spiridonov has found himself a volunteer. He is in a wheelchair, has severe physical deformities and wants his head transferred to a healthy donor body. "I know I can die. But I don't pull back anymore, ”said Spiridonow. "I need a new body. Nobody can imagine what it is like to live with it. ”Since childhood he has suffered from Werdnig-Hoffmann's disease, which according to his information should have led to death due to the loss of muscles, tissues and organs. Spiridonow said that he did not have much time left and wanted to be the first: "You feel like the hero of a science fiction novel, almost as if you were flying into the cosmos." Canavero himself sees some of the projects above all ethical hurdles to come. Critics and clergymen of the Russian Orthodox Church, for example, argued that body and mind are one. "The real stumbling block is ethics," said Canavero. But he had already pointed out in the past that if the project should not be carried out in the USA or Europe, this does not mean that it cannot be carried out anywhere else. (ad)