The world’s first human head transplant has been carried out on a corpse in China, according to Italian professor Sergio Canavero.During an 18 hour operation, experts demonstrated that it is possible to successfully reconnect the spine, nerves and blood vessels of a severed head.
A similar operation on a live human will take place ‘imminently’, controversial professor claims.
PREPARATION FOR THE PROCEDURE
In May, scientists carried out a head transplant on a rat in a practise run for controversial human experiment.Researchers used three rats for each operation: a smaller rat, to be donor, and two larger rats, acting as the recipient and the blood supply.To maintain blood flow to donor brain, they connected the blood vessels from that rat to veins of the third rat using a silicon tube, which was then passed through a peristaltic pump.Then, once the head had been transplanted onto the second rat’s body, the researchers used vascular grafts to connect the donor’s thoracic aorta and superior vena cava to carotid artery and extracorporeal veins of the recipient.
Professor Canavero, director of Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, made the announcement at a press conference in Vienna this morning.The procedure was carried out by a team led by Dr Xiaoping Ren, who last year grafted a head onto the body of a monkey.A full report of the Harbin Medical University team’s procedure and a timeframe for the live transplant are expected within next few days.Speaking at the press conference, Professor Canavero told ‘For too long nature has dictated her rules to us.’We’re born, we grow, we age and we die. For millions of years humans has evolved and 110 billion humans have died in process.’That’s genocide on a mass scale.’We have entered an age where we will take our destiny back in our hands.’It will change everything. It will change you at every level.’The first human head transplant, in human mode, has been realised.’The surgery lasted 18 hours. The paper will be released in a few days.”Everyone said it was impossible, but surgery was successful.’Professor Canavero added that the team’s next step is to perform a full head swap between brain dead organ donors.’And that is the final step for the formal head transplant for a medical condition which is imminent,’ he told.’It will be for a medical, neurological condition, not for life-extension.’Asked whether the eventual plans for live procedures would go worldwide after initial tests in China, Professor Canavero said: ‘Given the amount of mean criticism we recieved I don’t think we should go international.’For instance, if you still stick to Frankenstein schtick, which doesn’t make sense, then no.
‘This is a medical condition for people who are suffering awfully so it isn’t a joke.’Response from the medical community to news of procedure has been wholly critical.Many professionals have branded experiment as having negligible scientific or medical and have questioned Professor Canavero’s ethics.Dr James Fildes, NHS principal research scientist at the University Hospital of South Manchester’s Transplant Centre, told ‘Unless Canavero or Ren provide real evidence that they can perform a head, or more appropriately, a whole body transplant on a large animal that recovers sufficient function to improve quality of life, this entire project is morally wrong.
THE CONTROVERSIAL PLAN FOR A HUMAN HEAD TRANSPLANT
In September 2016, the controversial neurosurgeon outlined plans to conduct ‘Frankenstein’ experiments to reanimate human corpses to test his technique.Professor Canavero and his collaborators discussed trials to test whether it is possible to reconnect the spinal cord of a head to another body with tests that will stimulate the nervous system in fresh human corpses with electrical pulses.Severely handicapped Russian computer scientist Valery Spiridonov volunteered to be a human guinea pig, by undertaking the world’s first head transplant.Dr Sergio Canavero plans to conduct tests on human corpses before performing a human head transplant. Mr Spiridonov, 31 years old now accepts his hopes of his head being grafted onto a new healthy body are over.The aim of surgery is to first cut the spinal cord and then repair it before using electrical or magnetic stimulation to ‘reanimate’ the nerves and even movement in the corpse.In an article for the Surgical Neurology International, Dr Canavero and his colleague in South Korea and China drew parallels to infamous story of Frankenstein, where electricity is used to reanimate the fictional monster.He pointed to experiments conducted in the 1800s using the corpses of criminals who had been hung as proof such tests could be successful.’Perhaps far more worryingly, this endeavour appears to revolve around immortality, but in each case a body is needed for transplant, and therefore a human needs to die as part of the process.’Where does Canavero propose to get the donor body from if the goal is to tackle the laws of nature?’Has Canavero considered how he will tackle acute rejection of constituent parts of the head?’What will rejection of the skin, muscles, eyes, and brain manifest as? I hope this is not just egotistical pseudoscience.’Dr Jan Schnupp, professor of neuroscience at University of Oxford, added ‘I find it inconceivable that ethics committees in any reputable research or clinical institutions would give a green light to living human head transplants in the foreseeable future.’Indeed, attempting such a thing given the current state of art would be nothing short of criminal.
CRITICS OPPOSE THE HEAD TRANSPLANT
Critics say Dr Canavero’s plans are ‘pure fantasy’.The Italian has been compared to the fictional gothic-horror character Dr Frankenstein and Arthur Caplan, the director of medical ethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Centre, has described Dr Canavero as ‘nuts’.Dr Hunt Batjer, president elect of American Association for Neurological Surgeons, told CNN ‘I would not wish this on anyone. I would not allow anyone to do it to me as there are a lot of things worse than death.’
‘As a neuroscientist, I would really quite like the general public to be reassured that neither I nor any of my colleagues think that beheading people for extremely long shot experiments is acceptable. It is not.’Professor Canavero first made his shocking plans public in 2015.Severely handicapped Russian computer scientist Valery Spiridonov initially volunteered to be a human guinea pig, by undertaking world’s first live head transplant.Mr Spiridonov, 31 years old now accepts his hopes of his head being grafted onto a new healthy body are over.It is likely the first transplant will be carried out on someone from China, and a large number of volunteers are already claimed to have come forward.In preparation, scientists attached the head of a rat onto the body of another in May.In the disturbing experiment, researchers in China affixed the heads of smaller, ‘donor’ rats onto the backs of larger recipients, creating two-headed animals that lived an average of just 36 hours.The team, which involved Professor Canavero, managed to complete the transplant without causing blood loss-related brain damage to donor.In the study, researchers from Harbin Medical University in China and Professor Canavero built upon earlier head-grafting experiments to figure out how to avoid damage to the brain tissue during operation, as well as long-term immune rejection.Previously, scientists have attempted the procedure on dogs and monkeys, which helped to test neural preservation when blood flood to the brain had been cut off, they explain in paper published to CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics.But, long-term survival of the specimens was not a priority.The researchers used three rats for each operation: a smaller rat, to be the donor, and two larger rats, acting as the recipient and blood supply.To maintain blood flow to the donor brain, they connected the blood vessels from that rat to veins of third rat using a silicon tube, which was then passed through a peristaltic pump.Then, once the head had been transplanted onto the second rat’s body, the researchers used vascular grafts to connect the donor’s thoracic aorta and superior vena cava to carotid artery and extracorporeal veins of the recipient.According to the team, there was no injury to the donor brain tissue as a result of blood loss in the experiment.And, after the surgery, the donor head was still able to blink and feel pain.The two-headed creatures lived 36 hours on average following the procedure, Business Insider reported.Still, with the addition of the peristaltic pump and vascular grafting to the technique, the researchers say long-term survival could be a possibility.