Sergio Canavero says he has improved on a procedure that has been unsuccessful in animal experiments. Head transplants could be used to treat conditions like muscular dystrophy.
Italian scientist Sergio Canavero believes he has come up with an outline to successfully complete the first human head transplant in history, which could lead to solutions for those suffering from muscular dystrophy or tetraplegics with widespread organ failure.
Head transplants have been attempted since the 1950s, when Russian scientist Vladimir Demikhov experimented with dogs. Twenty years later, American neurosurgeon Robert White conducted a successful head transplant by moving the head of one monkey to the body of another. The monkey lived for several days, but because White could not connect the two spinal cords, the monkey eventually died.
Canavero describes in a recent paper a step to connect donor and recipient spinal cords – the one component that was missing from previous procedures.
But completing a head transplant is incredibly tedious, and the spinal cord fusion hasn't been tested.
Though the procedure's name suggests otherwise, the recipient would be receiving a new body, not a new head. Both the body-recipient and the body-donor's heads are severed before the recipient's is attached to a new body.
To be transplanted, the head would have to be cooled to between 55 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, the two heads must be cut at exactly the same time and in the same operating room. Surgeons then have one hour to connect the head to the donor body, which is also cooled and placed under cardiac arrest.
Canavero's new development to connect the spinal cords is called the GEMINI procedure, during which surgeons cut the cooled spinal cords with extremely sharp blades.