Doctors seem to be a step closer to performing a breakthrough surgery: transplanting a human head onto another body. A Russian man with a rare genetic muscle-wasting disorder has volunteered to be the first to try the procedure.
“I’m very interested in technology, and anything progressive that might change people’s lives for the better,” Valery Spiridonov from the Russian city of Vladimir, told RT.
Spiridonov, a 30-year-old qualified computer scientist, works for an IT firm.
He said that his disease is getting worse every year, and usually people with Werdnig-Hoffman disorder – a disease that wastes muscles – don’t live longer than 20 years, so it would be a chance to prolong his life and help scientific research in the process.
“Doing this isn’t only an excellent opportunity for me, but will also create a scientific basis for future generations, no matter what the actual outcome of the surgery is,” he said.
The operation is set to be conducted by renowned Italian surgeon Sergio Canavero, who sees the procedure as comparable to space exploration.
“Russia sent Yury Gagarin into space with fair chances of dying. America sent Neil Armstrong to the moon with fair chances of dying. And the chances here are much, much better,” Canavero told RT.
According to Canavero, the operation is set to last up to 36 hours, and will cost over $11 million.
During the procedure, the patient’s brain will be cooled down to 10-15 degrees Celsius (50-60 Fahrenheit) to prolong the time the cells are able to survive without oxygen.
The body will be taken from a brain-dead but otherwise healthy donor.
An ultra-sharp scalpel will be used to cut through the spinal cord, and a special biological glue will be used to connect the head to the new body.
After the operation, Valery will be put into a coma for three to four weeks to prevent any movement. He will also be given immunosuppressants with the aim of preventing the body rejecting its new head.
Many medics are against carrying out the procedure, with a Californian doctor saying it is “too overwhelming a project to succeed,” while others branded it “too outlandish to consider” and simply “crazy.”
Canavero has called the procedure “HEAVEN,” which is an acronym for head anastomosis venture. Anastomosis involves the surgical connecting of two parts.
Medical science has come a long way to even consider this operation: the first successful transplant on a person happened back in 1905, with a cornea replaced by an Austrian surgeon.
In 1967, a patient in South Africa received a new heart.
Entire limbs are being replaced, too: for instance, surgeons gave a man in France a new right hand in 1998.
Five years ago, another groundbreaking procedure took place, when a Spanish man underwent a full face transplant.