Human Head Transplants Now Possible, Italian Scientist Claims

Tuesday, 02 Jul 2013 09:57 AM

By Clyde Hughes

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An Italian scientist said he believes doctors have the ability to transplant a human head to another body, and he has created an outline for how the surgery could be possible.

In a recent research paper, Sergio Canavero described how to connect donor and recipient spinal cords – the one component that was missing from making human head transplants possible, according to U.S. News &World Report.

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Russian scientist Vladimir Demikhov experimented with head transplants on dogs in the 1950s. In the 1970s, American neurosurgeon Robert White successfully transplanted the head of one monkey to the body of another, but because White could not connect the spinal cords, the monkey only lived for a few days.

Canavero said he thinks he has solved the spinal cords connection problem with an untested method he calls the GEMINI procedure.

The two bodies involved in the surgery would be cooled to 55 to 59 degrees and then the spinal cords would be cut with extremely sharp blades.

"It is this 'clean cut' that is key to spinal cord fusion, in that it allows proximally severed axons to be 'fused' with their distal counterparts," Canavero wrote in his paper, U.S. News & World Report reported.

The doctor would then use chemicals like polyethylene glycol, or PEG, to immediately fuse the spinal cords.

Many scientists said head transplant surgery would serve no benefit to humans and the research is a waste of time.

"Connecting a head to a body is worthless to human beings today. The whole concept is bizarre," British Transplantation Society professor Anthony Warrens told the Telegraph.

"This sounds like something from a horror movie," Calum Mackellar, from the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, added.

Canavero ignores the naysayers and defended his research.

"This is no longer science fiction," Canavero told The Telegraph. "This could be done today — now. If this operation is done it will provide a few people with a substantial amount of extra life. The only reason I have not gone further is funding."

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