Have you ever imagined grafting one organism’s head onto the body of another? I am half- heartedly saying “Yes it happened”, it has been successfully done with dogs, rats, and monkeys but no human is known to have undergone the procedure yet. However, don’t you know that the first human head transplant has been scheduled for December 2017? Ready? Someone volunteered for the groundbreaking procedure!
World’s First human head transplant…
Valeri Spiridonov a 30-year-old Russian man volunteered to undergo the first human head transplant. He is suffering from a genetic condition called Werdnig-Hoffman disease — a form of spinal muscular atrophy. The disease is caused by loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord and brainstem leading to lose of muscle control.
The procedure is set to be vented in China that might cost $11 Million, 150 surgeons and nurses will take part and approximately would take 36 hours to complete. Dr. Canavero of TANG or Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group first announced the proposal of the project last July 2013 named as “Heaven-Gemini”. Unsurprisingly, the procedures dwindled over many criticisms some saying, he’s “insane” that such thing is not possible and the body will reject that foreign head attached to a new body.
Dr. Canavero admitted that there would be a lot of hurdles and challenges for the HEAVEN-GEMINI project. Spinal cord fusion or SCF and the possibility of head rejection are the main challenges. Dr. Canavero mentioned in a paper, published in Surgical Neurology International — “The greatest technical hurdle to such endeavor is, of course, the reconnection of the donor’s and recipient’s spinal cords. It is my contention that the technology only now exists for such linkage.»
The project has been doomed to many speculations questioning if it is feasible, some are thinking about the benefits of head transplant while others insist on how the body will able to fully recover after the procedure while others condemn its ethical effect to the medical world.
Head transplant: How would it work?
Under deep hypothermia, the head will be removed from the donor body using an “ultra-sharp blade” so that it won’t damage the spinal cord and it will be reinstalled to a new body. Dr. Canavero stated that both donor and recipient’s body will be put into hypothermia mode for about 45 minutes in order to limit any neurological damage because of oxygen deprivation.
The hardest part is the spinal cord fusion, this where they connect two different tissues coming from different bodies. Dr. Canavero explained that the chemicals polyethylene glycol or chitosan would be utilised to encourage the fusion before the muscles and blood supply are sutured.
After the surgery, the recipient of the new head will be placed under a coma for 3-4 weeks. This is the time where the new nerve connections to fuse together, that is why any movements should be avoided. While in the coma period, the recipient will also undergo electrical stimulation using the implanted electrodes so that spinal cord fusion will boost its activity and also he will be given drugs to stop his body rejecting the new head.
But is it ethical?
Before the human head transplant taken into the realm of consideration, some did trials to primates, rats, and other animals. Does it pass the ethics test? Moral activities are on point and gearing up analysis on how does this human head transplant contribute a big impact in the medical word. Enormous numbers of ethical concerns are being raised regarding this issue stating how the body and brain will interact towards each other. The fact remains that head transplant would be a bit outrageous for the needs of certain patients. Scientists believe that if they have the machine to connect two different spins then it would be much easier for them to find treatments that correct spine issues specifically to those who are suffering from degenerative diseases.
Some are thinking that there is something going wrong! Moralist believes those scientists are concocting human bodies in some secret Frankenstein laboratory that might give a blastic effect to humanity. Ethical issues are arising, others say that doctors might be motivated to perform head switching for all wrong reasons. The surgery would also raise some thorny philosophical questions saying what would be the essence of us being human. Questioning what’s the donor and what’s the recipient? You know, a baby or a human becomes a person and this procedure turns it on its head. Is this a person that the body belongs to or the person the head belongs to? It is scary, right? a hybrid person.
These are some of the deeper questions we need to look at and discussed. We have to make sure that the motivations are around a true medical requirement and not some desire to be famous or may disregard humane treatments and incorrect medical practice.
We’ll see by the end of 2017 if the procedure will take place, Dr. Canavero stated that it will be a success because they are doing a step by step approach to all this. If plan A does not work there are still a lot of letters in the alphabet that they have a detailed plan and everything is moving towards their end goal — a successful human head transplant.