Back in 2015, Italian surgeon Dr. Sergio Canavero proposed that he could perform the first human head transplant as early as 2017. To prove that the procedure was possible, he then went on to reconnect the severed spinal cord of a dog and attached the head of a mouse to the body of a rat. He even managed to find a volunteer in the form of Valery Spiridonov, but it appears that the surgery may not be going ahead as originally planned.
Proposed patient and volunteer Valery Spiridonov suffers from Werdnig-Hoffmann disease. This genetic diseases causes his muscles to break down, and kills the nerve cells in his spinal cord and brain. Currently, there is no known cure. This means the 31 year old is confined to a wheelchair, and would be a prime candidate for the surgery, as transplanting his head to another body would let him regain the ability to walk. Though the procedure was scheduled for this upcoming December, it now seems that Dr. Sergio Canavero and the medical team dedicated to the procedure are no longer sure it would allow Mr. Spiridonov to walk again. Due to this, the patient has decided to not go ahead with the procedure.
However, Dr. Sergio Canavero has since recruited Chinese surgeon Xiaoping Ren from Harbin Medical University to help perform his proposed surgery. They’re now in the process of looking for a Chinese volunteer, and the pair are hoping to proceed with a head transplant some time in 2018. The procedure is, of course, very challenging as it requires re-connecting the spinal column. It also requires management of the immune system post-surgery, as the donor body will reject the newly attached head.
Though it all seems impossible, the procedure would revolutionize the medical field if successful.
Images: WikiMedia, Valery Spiridonov/Facebook