First human head transplant

Italian doc plans to perform the op in 2017 involving a team of 150 people.

London: An Italian surgeon claims he is ready to perform the first full human head transplant in 2017 and he already has a volunteer. Dr Sergio Canavero says his team have the ability to perform the complicated procedure thanks to technological advances. But experts have debunked his claims and insist that the operation is still many years from reality.

Russian-born Valery Sprinidov, who suffers from Werdnig-Hoffmann disease that causes atrophy of the muscles, has reportedly agreed to be the first patient to undergo the procedure.

According to The Independent, Canavero, now 51, announced he’d be able to do a human head transplant in a two-part procedure he dubs HEAVEN (head anastomosis venture) and Gemini (the subsequent spinal cord fusion). But many dismiss Canavero’s plans as fantasy.

According to Canavero the operation will be a 36-hour, $20 million (£14 milion) procedure involving at least 150 people, including doctors, nurses, technicians, psychologists and virtual reality engineers.

In a specially equipped hospital suite, two surgical teams will work simultaneously — one focused on Spiridonov and the other on the donor’s body, selected from a brain-dead patient and matched with the Russian for height, build and immunotype. Both patients — anesthetized and outfitted with breathing tubes — will have their heads locked using metal pins and clamps, and electrodes will be attached to their bodies to monitor brain and heart activity.

Next, Spiridonov’s head will be nearly frozen, ultimately reaching 12 to 15 degrees Celsius, which will make him temporarily brain-dead. Doctors will then drain his brain of blood and flush it with a standard surgery solution. Then the two teams, working in concert, will make deep incisions around each patient’s neck and use color-coded markings to note all the muscles in both Spiridonov’s head and that of the donor, to facilitate the reconnection.Next comes the most critical step of all.

Under an operating microscope, doctors will cleanly chop through both spinal cords - with a $200,000 diamond nanoblade, so thin that it is measured in angstroms, provided by the University of Texas. Then the rush is on: Once sliced, Spiridonov’s head will have to be attached to the donor’s body and connected to the blood flow within an hour. (When the head is transferred, the main vessels will be clamped to prevent air from causing a blockage.)

Surgeons will quickly sew the arteries and veins of Spiridonov’s head to those of his new body. The donor’s blood flow will then, in theory, re-warm Spiridonov’s head to normal temperatures within minutes.

( Source : Agencies )
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