Now you will be able to see the first ever human head transplant. As one may recall, a controversial surgeon Sergio Canavero has promised to perform the world’s first human head transplant. But is it even feasible for a human head transplant? Or is it just science fiction, or does it even have a basis in current scientific thinking?
What exactly is a human head transplant?
A human head transplant is exactly what it sounds like – taking one living head and putting it onto a new body. But it is somewhat misleading. The head will have a new body to control. However, as the term “whole body transplant” is used to for transferring the brain between bodies, known as a “head transplant” makes it clear that the whole head is to be switched including the brain. But the Italian scientist Dr. Sergio Canavero believes that it is possible, and plans to conduct the first surgery in 2017.
So how will the human head transplant work?
Firstly the donor body is first cooled down to 12-15˚C for ensuring the cells which last longer than a few minutes without oxygen. The tissue around the neck is then cut, with the major blood vessels linked with tiny tubes. The spinal cord on each party is then severed cleanly with an extremely sharp blade. At this point, the head is ready to be moved, and the two ends of the spinal cord are fused using a chemical called polyethylene glycol, encouraging the cells to mesh. This chemical has shown growth of spinal cord nerves in animals.
After the muscles and blood supply are successfully connected, the patient is kept in a coma for a month to limit movement of the newly fused neck, while electrodes stimulate the spinal cord to strengthen its new connections. Following the coma, the patient would immediately be able to move, feel their face and even speak with the same voice. He believes physiotherapy would allow the patient to walk within a year.
Is the human head transplant a hoax?
Let’s take a moment to address all the questions that are appearing in the internet for a few months: is this all for promoting a game?
There was close speculation when the trailer of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was released. It had some similarity with this theory. Cavanero has signaled his intention to sue developers Konami over the similarities. In September 2015, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was released, and Cavanero’s work is still under progress. No, it is not a PR stunt.
Researchers have carried out a successful head transplant on rats ahead of plans to attempt a similar operation on a human later this year. During the procedure, the head of a smaller rat was attached to the body of a larger rodent. Rather than simply replacing the head, the team attached the donor head to the body of the larger rat, creating an animal with two heads. The operation involved three rats in total: the donor, the recipient and a third used to maintain the blood supply to the transplanted head.