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Head transplant planned for spring 2018 in China
An Italian doctor plans to perform the first head transplant in China in spring 2018. Around 100 experts are said to be involved in the daring company. Critics warn of the operation. The neurosurgeon himself apparently has no ethical concerns.
Advances in transplant medicine
Transplant medicine has made tremendous progress in recent years. In 2015, for example, doctors managed to sensationally transplant a skull cap. And last year, the first penis transplant was done in the United States. A recent operation by a German-Italian team of scientists caused a sensation, in which an almost completely new skin was transplanted into a boy. An Italian surgeon's plan is even more sensational: he plans to transplant a human head.
Human head should be transplanted
The message is somewhat reminiscent of the famous film “Frankenstein”, in which a researcher creates a new being from several body parts: Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero plans to transplant a human head for the first time in spring 2018.
According to his plans, the head of a sick patient should be cut off and placed on the healthy body of a brain-dead man in the first operation performed worldwide.
Already two years ago, Canavero had told the science magazine "New Scientist": "I think we are now at the point that all technical aspects are feasible."
Actually, the project was already planned for 2017, but probably had to be postponed because the volunteer, the Russian Valery Spiridonov, who suffers from muscle loss due to a rare genetic defect, has changed his mind.
Trials with animals
There have been several similar animal experiments in the past. For example, the Russian physician 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 2013, the Chinese Ren Xiaoping managed to transplant a mouse head. He explained that the Canavero experiment was based on his basic knowledge.
"He contacted me and asked for advice on the operation," said the researcher from the Chinese "Volkszeitung".
The Chinese scientist is also said to have transplanted a foreign body into a rhesus monkey in 2016. According to reports, the monkey was unable to move its body after the operation. He had to be put to sleep after 20 hours.
Since the study has not yet been published, critics doubt the seriousness of the information.
Head transplant performed on a deceased
Together with colleague Xiaoping Ren from "Harbin Medical University", Canavero now wants to carry out the human head transplant in China.
The Italian doctor, who, together with the editor and editor-in-chief of the "OOOM" magazine, Georg Kindel, wrote the book "Medicus magnus - The revolution in medicine and how we use it for us" spoke about the presentation of the work in Vienna his project.
According to the information, a head transplant has already been performed on a deceased person. During the 18-hour operation, the spine, nerves and blood vessels of a severed head could be connected again.
In spring 2018, a Chinese should be the first person to have a head transplant.
According to media reports, a total of 100 experts, including twelve surgeons, will be involved in the procedure.
Critics were before the operation
Although my experts, Canavero and Ren will be able to manage the rejection reactions quite well with medication, they doubt that it will be possible to transplant the head without brain damage.
The biggest hurdle is probably to reconnect the severed nerve fibers in the patient's spinal cord. Canavero says that he can repair the injuries if he keeps the damage to the nerves as low as possible with a straight, sharp cut.
He wants to fill the gap between the fibers with the chemical polyethylene glycol (PEG). In an experiment, this method had stimulated the nerve fibers of paraplegic rats to grow again.
They were then able to move better than before, but their nerve fibers did not grow together.
People take their fate in hand
Although other scientists criticize Canavero's project as “unethical”, the Italian surgeon does not share this view.
At the beginning of 2016, Canavero and Ren published a letter in the specialist magazine "Surgical Neurology International", in which they accused critics of judging the project without knowing anything about it.
Nature has long determined our lives, now people take their fate into their own hands, says the researcher, who also believes that the planned experiment can provide clues as to where the “soul” is located.
Above all, it's about helping patients.
"We want to cure people who have not found any relief in medicine," said Canavero in an older interview with the Austrian internet portal "futurezone".
At the time, however, he also admitted: “There is a risk that the first patient will die. We don't know how well the anti-rejection drugs work. He won't have a normal life expectancy, but that applies to all forms of organ transplantation. ”(Ad)