I have covered Italian neurosurgeon (and ex-director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group) Dr. Sergio Canavero several times on this blog in the past via small sections within my once a month “brief items of interest” posts. To this date, I have generally thought that Dr. Canavero was more in it for the fame and shock value rather than for anything else (although to be fair, he also does often come across as being compassionate towards people with malfunctioning bodies). I did not think that his human head transplant procedure would ever come to fruition in the near term as he has often declared during the past few years.
Usually, I am very optimistic when it comes to medical/scientific/ technological advances, but in this case I (like numerous other people) thought that Dr. Canavero was a borderline lunatic. Albeit an entertaining one who uses bananas to explain complicated surgeries. I did not think that western governments would ever allow him to proceed with his experiments on humans, while the more willing Chinese government would probably only allow it after a few more years of research. Definitely not before 2020:-)
Maybe China will Speed up the Process?
However, it seems like there is now a decent chance that the first ever human “head transplant” procedure is on schedule and will be attempted within a year. Several days ago, Dr. Canavero gave a detailed interview to a German magazine (four pages long) that is worth a read.
As I have mentioned in the past, this procedure is technically a “full body transplant”, since a live patient with a faulty body will get a dead person’s full body as a replacement. However, I will call it by the “head transplant” phrase that is now widely used by the global media.
Originally, it had been announced that Russian Valery Spiridonov was going to be the first ever patient to ever get a head transplant. However, with the operation now scheduled to take place in China, it looks like a Chinese patient will be the first one.
Dr. Xiaoping Ren to Lead
It also seems like Dr. Xiaoping Ren (who was part of a team that performed the first ever hand transplant in the US) will now lead the surgery proceedings, with Dr. Canavero assisting. Dr. Ren became well known in 2015 after that shocking article came out. He has since conducted many more experiments (primarily on rodents), including this recent grotesque one. I hate seeing such images, but they are everywhere on the internet these days so I decided to post the link. Dr. Ren works at Harbin Medical University in China. Dr. Ren is extremely experienced, just like Dr. Canavero.
Brief Video Conference Between Dr. Canavero and Dr. Ren
Even if the first ever human head transplant does occur within a year in China, I do not think that it will be a success. In a best case scenario, the human will live for a few hours like a vegetable -> Dr. Canavero will say it was a huge success because the patient lived briefly --> the global media will call it torture --> and the Chinese government could go either way (i.e., ban future procedures on humans, or allow them to continue a few more times after considering the surgery somewhat of a success and a pride for the country).
Overall, as the title of this post indicates, this procedure sounds like hell to me. If my body was disintegrating, I would rather die than go through this kind of experiment. Kudos to the patients who are volunteering for something that could potentially end up making medical science progress drastically.
Having said that, it will be absolutely ludicrous if a successful human head transplant occurs before a hair loss cure is realized.
I almost forgot to mention…Dr. Canavaro also plans to unfreeze cryogenically frozen brains and move them to bodies within three years.
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