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The Italian neurosurgeon ready to try the first head transplant

Sergio Canavero explains how he will conduct this complicated operation

The Italian neurosurgeon ready to try the first head transplant

Claudia Astarita


Doctor Sergio Canavero's wish is to do the operation in December 2017.  The venue will be the Medical University in Harbin in China.

The bold neurosurgeon - currently employed at the Molinette Hospital in Turin - has declared to be willing to use a revolutionary technique on the volunteer Valery Spiridonov. The latter is a Russian programmer affected by the Werdning-Hoffman disease. This pathology is very serious, causing a progressive muscular atrophy blocking the heart and therefore leading to death.

Spiridonov is quite enthusiastic about the operation and ready to spend 10 million Euros for a new life. He trusts the Italian surgeon and he really wants a new body. On this subject, Spiridonov's head will be transplanted on a donor's body, departed for cerebral death.

This operation is considered by many of Canavero's colleague as "pure madness", but current experiments on test animals prove its feasibility, without neglecting its complexity.

The main obstacle is the one of connecting the recipient's spinal cord with the one of the donor and Canavero maintains he is able to do it. First of all, he will bring the two subjects to hypothermia (10-15 degrees), then Canavero and a team of 150 surgeons will proceed with a delicate reconnection job of muscles, blood vessels and tissues.

The whole operation will last 36 hours and the most difficult part will concern the spinal cord. The Italian surgeon argues that it is not necessary to connect all the fibres of the pyramidal bundle, since once the spinal cord is connected its cells will also reconnect with the others. All this is possible thanks to a "magic glue" called PEG (Polyethylene glycol) that melts the peripheral nerves and membranes of any cell in the body like a biological adhesive.

Whether it is a utopia or a real turning point in human history, we need to wait for two years and see.

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