World’s first head trans­plant on way

Midweek Sport - - NEWS -

SCI­EN­TISTS are on the brink of “do­ing a Franken­stein” and per­form­ing a hu­man head trasnplant, ac­cord­ing to a lead­ing sur­geon.

Dr Ser­gio Canavero, of the Turin Ad­vanced Neu­ro­mod­u­la­tion Group, in Italy, says ad­vances in cell and nerve en­gi­neer­ing mean sur­geons can now the­o­ret­i­cally fuse a hu­man spinal cord.

But it would take 100 sur­geons up to 36 hours to do the pi­o­neer­ing op­er­a­tion, which would cost £8.5mil­lion.

The pro­ce­dure has pre­vi­ously been per­formed un­suc­cess­fully on mon­keys as the spinal cord failed to re­con­nect. But more re­cently sci­en­tists have been able to over­come this in rats, and that break­through has led to Dr Canavero mak­ing claims a hu­man head trans­plant is now pos­si­ble. In his pa­per, pub­lished by Sur­gi­cal

Neu­rol­ogy In­ter­na­tional, he says chem­i­cals called ‘mem­brane fu­so­gens’ or ‘sealants’ make it pos­si­ble to fuse and re­pair spinal cord dam­age.

He said: “The great­est tech­ni­cal hur­dle to such en­deav­our is of course the re­con­nec­tion of the donor’s and re­cip­i­ent’s spinal cords.

“It is my con­tention that the tech­nol­ogy only now ex­ists for such link­age.”

Dr Canavero said both the re­cip­i­ent and the donor would be put to sleep and the head to be trans­planted would be cooled to be­tween 12C and 15C.

Sur­geons would then have one hour to re­move both heads and re­con­nect the trans­plant head to the donor body.

The op­er­a­tion would have to be car­ried out within this time, be­cause an hour is the long­est a hu­man brain can sur­vive with­out a steady flow of blood and oxy­gen.

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