AN Italian surgeon is set to become the first in the world to transplant a human head on to a donor body.
The pioneering operation by Dr Sergio Canavero is to be carried out on a 30-year-old computer scientist who is suffering from a fatal muscle wasting disease.
Valery Spiridonov has admitted that the prospect of going through with the operation is terrifying.
“I am afraid, but what people don’t really understand is I don’t really have many choices.
“If I don’t try this out my fate will be very sad. With every year my situation is getting worse.”
The man from Russia, who is battling the rare genetic Werdnig-Hoffman muscle wasting disease, added: “My decision is final and I do not plan to change my mind.”
Dr Canavero said he’s received many emails and letters from people seeking the procedure and he had already decided that the first patient would be someone suffering from a muscle wasting disease.
The procedure has some medical precedent as it was recently reported that Chinese scientists had carried out a head transplant on a mouse.
But most medical experts say a human head transplant is pure fantasy.
Dr Hunt Batjer, president elect of the American Association for Neurological Surgeons, told CNN: “I would not wish this on anyone. I would not allow anyone to do it to me as there are a lot of things worse than death.”
Firstly he would have to cool both the body and head so the cells won’t die when deprived of oxgyen through the process.
Next, the neck of the patient is severed and all the crucial blood vessels are hooked up to tubes while the spinal cord on both the head and the body are severed.
“The recipient’s head is then moved onto the donor body and the two ends of the spinal cord are fused together,” said Thomson.
“To achieve this, Canavero intends to flush the area with a chemical called polyethylene glycol, and follow up with several hours of injections of the same stuff. Just like hot water makes dry spaghetti stick together, polyethylene glycol encourages the fat in cell membranes to mesh.”
Canavero told Thomson the last stage of the lenghy process would be to stitch up the muscles and blood supply.
The patient would then be put into a three or four-week coma to let the body heal itself while embedded electrodes stimulate the spinal cord to strengthen the new nerve connections.
The patient won’t be able to get up and walk around after the surger Dr Canavero said telling the New Scientist that the damage to the spinal cord would take about 12 months to heal fully. The patient would however keep their old voice, he adds.
Only time will tell if the body rejects the new head or not.