Candidate for the First Ever Head Transplant Found

Following on from my earlier article (link below) about the world’s first head transplant, it seems that Dr Canavero, from the Turin Advanced Neuromoddulation Group, has found his very first head donor: a 30 year-old male Russian patient suffering from a rare genetic condition named Werdnig-Hoffman disease, more commonly known as Type 1 Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA – 1), the most severe form of the disease which affects the control of muscle movement [1,3].

Despite earlier claims that the 36-hour long procedure would not be possible before atSpinal-cord-and-skull-istock2 least 2022, Dr Canavero now strongly believes he could perform this operation in the next 2 years, saving the life of this patient, even possibly let him live normally and perform normal motor functions, with adequate rehabilitation and intense physiotherapy. [2]

The trick with head transplants – and indeed the major hurdle for neurosurgeons for the past 20 years – is to successfully reconnect the spinal cord from the donor head to the recipient body. Dr Canavero and his team have theorised that fusion of the spinal tissues would be possible using a chemical that triggers the connection and fusion of cell membranes.[1] Once they achieve this, they would only need to perform the other, simpler steps of a traditional transplant: reconnecting arteries, muscle tissues, trachea, oesophagus, etc. The patient would then be kept in a coma until the stitches heal completely, with continuous electrical stimulation of his spinal cord to keep his motor functions intact (a method called head anastomosis venture, or ‘HEAVEN’). [3]

If Dr Canavero’s method proves to be successful, the patient would awake from his coma two months after the operation, completely healed and able to perform all normal motor functions. After year-long physiotherapy, he could even walk again. However, there is increasing criticism of this “wizard theory” in the world of academia. Several scientists believe the body could never recover full motor functions, and that the high dose of anti-rejection meds imposed on the patient would ultimately poison him, if the spinal reconnection is even possible in the first place. [2]

 

Check out my previous article for more information about the procedure:

http://scistand.com/2015/first-human-head-transplant-2017/

 

References:

[1]  http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22530103.700-first-human-head-transplant-could-happen-in-two-years.html

[2] http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/head-transplant-volunteer-might-face-fate-more-terrifying-death

[3] http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/292306.php

 

Image credits:

http://cdn.elciudadano.cl/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Spinal-cord-and-skull-istock2.jpg

 

Leave A Comment

Copyright Sci@StAnd 2013