Dr. Sergio Canavero, Director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, announced that he would perform the world’s first human head transplant, scheduled for December 2017, if preparations beforehand goes according to plan. The eager volunteer? A 30-year-old Russian man, Valery Spiridonov, who suffers from a rare motor neuron disease known as Werdnig-Hoffman Disease. There is currently no treatment for the disease, and he has hopes of improving his quality of life.
“The chances of this working is 90%,” claims Dr. Canavero.“…of course there’s a marginal risk. “But for him Western medicine has nothing to offer; “western medicine has failed.”
Along with the risk and uncertainties that accompany any surgery, there is the obvious hitch: no doctor has ever successfully reconnected a spinal cord. And if the reconnection was successful, would the head reject the new body?
Dr. Xiaopin Ren, a neurosurgeon from China’s Harbin Medical University, will partner up with Dr. Canavero in this endeavor. Dr. Ren has performed head transplants in over 1,000 different mice…unfortunately, while the mice were able to breathe, drink, and see, none of them survived for longer than a few minutes.
The duo will spend the next 2 years prepping for the 36-hour surgery. Dr. Canavero will attempt to reconnect the spinal cord with polyethylene glycol—a compound known for its ability to fuse fatty cell membranes.
If ever a success—in 2 years or 200—the procedure could address the <> of the severely disabled. Is it worth the risk?