World’s 1st head transplant to be carried out on Chinese patient; doctors still determined amid criticisms

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“We have the scientists, the experts, the teams in the U.S., South Korea and China working it and when we are ready to inform the public, we will do it.” – Dr. Sergio Canavero.

“Many great scientific ideas are born out of crazy ideas that turned out to be right so we can’t completely turn a blind eye to this, but there has to be some mechanistic aspect to it, which I’m not seeing,” Dr. Robert Brownstone, Canavero’s critic.

The world’s first head transplant, in case you haven’t heard of it, or even crossed your mind it would even be possible, is supposed to take place around December 2017, but has been delayed. The Russian volunteer Valery Spiridonov who was announced to be the first recipient of the surgery has backed out because “the doctor couldn’t promise him what he so wished for: that he would be able to have a normal life, walk again, or that he would even survive the surgery.”

There is no definitive date as of now when the world’s 1st head transplant would happen, but The Science Page mentioned it would likely take place within the first quarter of 2018.

Neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero said that the surgery will be carried out on a Chinese patient instead. He said in an article by Business Insider that he will soon complete this transplant procedure with two people — a Chinese national who remains anonymous and a brain-dead organ donor (or should we say body donor). The head of the former will be attached to the body of the latter.

Canavero’s procedure is dubbed HEAVEN, short for head anastomosis venture. What a coincidence it would be for speaking of heaven, after the disconnected head go on a state of near-death experience, he might just prove or witness if the afterlife exists when he comes back to a new body.

In the first of his experiments, Canavero claimed to have severed then reconnected the spinal cord of a dog. And in one of his recent publications, he claimed to have severed and reconnected the spinal cords of mice as a proof-of-concept for the surgery. The spinal cords were reattached using a special solution called polyethylene glycol (PEG); a common laboratory tool used to encourage cells to fuse. In less scientific terms, let’s call it “glue”.

Canavero said he’d been studying the concept of this breakthrough of transplant for more than a decade before he picked up Mary Shelley’s classic novel: Frankenstein. After reading it, he said he realized his planned procedure lacked a critical component: electricity. James FitzGerald, a neurosurgeon at the University of Oxford, told Business Insider that PEG can be paired with “large pulses of electricity” to entice fibers into merging. “Electricity has the power to speed up regrowth,” Canavero said.

Still, FitzGerald stands that Canavero’s plans to use it to fuse two spinal cords are unrealistic. “I simply don’t think the reports of joining spinal cords together are credible,” he said. A statement which was agreed to by Robert Brownstone, a professor of neurosurgery and the Brain Research Trust Chair of Neurosurgery at the University College London.

Despite criticism from other scientists, Canavero is determined to make it happen. “There are so-called experts who have no experience because they have never done this before. They say ‘no this will never happen.’ I work on it,” he said.

As a reader, what do you think? Maybe it does need a bit more polishing. But for the argument if it is possible or not, I leave this thought here: Back in ancient times, you’d be called crazy if you ever consider that it is possible to talk to  someone who’s thousands of miles away, or that “flying machines” would ever exist; and if it did, it’s called magic.

Watch this video shared by SCIENCR via Youtube:

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