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article imageFirst human head transplant set for 2017

By Tim Sandle     Sep 11, 2016 in Science
The idea of a human head transplant may seem like science fiction. However, the proof-of-concept study is edging closer to reality, with one surgeon claiming that he plans to undertake the procedure next year.
In 2013, surgeon Sergio Canavero surprised the medical field by stating his ambition was to perform a human head transplant. This was seen as something near impossible at the time. A head transplant is a surgical operation which involves the grafting of one organism's head onto the body of another. Head transplantation involves decapitating the patient.
Pushing forward his idea, Canavero has now proposed a two-part procedure. He describes the two procedures as: HEAVEN, or head anastomosis venture; and Gemini, or the subsequent spinal cord fusion.
Canavero has described how the procedure might work for the journal Surgical Neurology International. Following this, Canavero has presented the concept to the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeon’s 39th annual conference.
According to the website Gineers Now, the first head transplant will take around 36 hours to complete and it will require a surgical team of 150 people, and at a cost of $20 million.
Apparently the recipient of the first transplant has been identified. This is Valery Spiridonov, a 31-year-old Russian program manager who suffers from the rare muscular atrophy disorder Werdnig-Hoffman disease. The chance of success has been stated by Canavero as around 90 percent. However, the idea of a head transplant has proved controversial with the medical establishment. Canavero has been criticised on ethical grounds and also by those who think it simply will not work.
While head transplants have been performed on dogs and monkeys, the animals tested were unable to move following the procedure and died shortly afterwards. With the planned study, The Daily Telegraph quotes from various doctors who have expressed serious doubts about the likelihood of Mr Spiridinov’s brain remaining functional by the time the surgery is complete.
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