First Head transplant

A Diagram of Human Head transplant

“Head Transplant” the word itself sounds absurd and unrealistic. The First Head transplant is surgical procedure involving decapitating ahead and grafting of one’s on another body We all had known that Medical science has advanced and is changing the world around for people. Human mankind has advanced performing miracles which were far imaginable a few years back. Doctors and surgeons today saves lives by transplanting major organs, skin, bones, nerves and veins, but transplanting a human head onto another human body seems like a fantasy. When the Famous English author Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein In 1818 the very first science fiction could come true. In the novel, Victor created Frankenstein by sewing together body parts from human corpse to create a new life. If we see to date, doctors and surgeons have successful transplant all the major organ of the body, like heart lungs, liver, kidneys, intestine and pancreas but not the head. This may be it, a greater change and a boon to mankind, but is it safe? Is it even possible? Find out how medical science explains the producer so simply.

A Head transplant is surgical procedure involving decapitating ahead and grafting of one’s on another body. Indeed there have been many experiments before were doctors tried to perform head transplant surgery on dogs, monkeys, and rat. In 1908 Doctor Charles Claude Guthrie succeeded in grafting one dog’s head on the neck of another healthy dog. The most potential to keep a donor’s head alive was when Sergei Brukhonenko developed a device “Autojektor” which helped to keep the decapitated head in a semi-conscious state and responsive to certain sounds. Whereas there was no further experiment carried out Brukhonenko developed a second autojeker to use on humans.

After that many scientist and doctors carried out experimentation like in 1956 in china they claimed to successfully perform a dog head transplant twice. But the most influential work was done by Vladimir Demikhov whose subjects died typically due to resistant retort, but it affected the future science of Organ transplant as he initiated many different forms of transplants through the 1940s and 50s. His work was well known by many other surgeons and after the experimentation of heart transplant on dogs by Norman Shumway of Stanford University, the first ever Human heart transplant was performed by Christian Barnard in South Africa, in 1967, however, the patient died, but it marked as a very important surgery in medical science. Similarly, there were many more experiments performed on monkeys and rats. In 1970 a group of scientist in Ohio led by a professor of neurological surgery and Robert white a neurosurgeon performed the first head transplant by decapitating a monkeys head and re-attaching it on another monkey’s body and it saw success to some extent as the animal being able to smell, taste hear and see everything around it. The surgery carried out involved cauterizing veins and arteries carefully while the head being prevented from hypovolemia as the nerves were intact and connecting the brain to a blood supply just like the machine

The surgery carried out involved cauterizing veins and arteries carefully while the head being prevented from hypovolemia as the nerves were intact and connecting the brain to a blood supply just like the machine autojektor even though the animal died, it stayed alive for several days. Dr. White repeated the experiment in 2001 on a monkey and saw success in it. In a press conference, Dr. White said – “What has been accomplished in the animal model – prolonged hypothermic preservation and cephalic transplantation, is fully accomplishable in the human sphere. Whether such dramatic procedures will ever be justified in the human area must wait not only upon the continued advance of medical science but more appropriately the moral and social justification of such procedural undertakings”

In 1970 a group of scientist in Ohio led by a professor of neurological surgery and Robert white a neurosurgeon performed a head transplant by decapitating a monkeys head and re-attaching it on another monkey’s body and it saw success to some extent as the animal being able to smell, taste hear and see everything around it. The surgery carried out involved cauterizing veins and arteries carefully while the head being prevented from hypovolemia as the nerves were intact and connecting the brain to a blood supply just like the machine autojektor even though the animal died, it stayed alive for several days. Dr. White repeated the experiment in 2001 on a monkey and saw success in it. In a press conference, Dr. White said – “What has been accomplished in the animal model – prolonged hypothermic preservation and cephalic transplantation, is fully accomplishable in the human sphere. Whether such dramatic procedures will ever be justified in the human area must wait not only upon the continued advance of medical science but more appropriately the moral and social justification of such procedural undertakings”

Head Transplant

Dr.Sergio Canavero and Valery Spiridonov

Human First Head Transplant a possibility

Recent news has shown that Dr. Sergio Canavero an Italian neurosurgeon has the vision to make head transplant a possibility. His recent announcement about him attempting the head transplant surgery within 3 years has met harsh criticism. But he believes that modern science and medicine has all the means to do this procedure successfully. Typically the media covered all the potential moral and ethical problems allied with the surgery. In the article, we will analyze

  • With the viewpoint of Medical science can this surgery be explained?
  • And can this surgery really take place in this time?

History Attempts

As we discussed earlier that attempts of head transplant on monkeys, dogs, and rats have taken place, but not on humans. The experiment by Robert White and his team to transplant the head of a monkey to another monkey’s body didn’t see success. However, the experiment did not address the challenge of reconstructing the detached spinal cords to avoid paralysis. After the failure of the experiment, no further experiments were conducted. Whereas, Dr. Canavero address that he has come up with a method to reconnect the spinal cord after it being decapitating from the body.

First Head Transplant in Humans

“HEAVEN” is the name of the first head transplant project Dr. Canavero has named, he says that a person with a healthy and useful head and brain but perhaps suffering from an incurable and incapacitating medical condition will be the recipient. A person who has been declared brain dead but still has a healthy body will be the donor, so after surgery, the donor would receive a new head. He considers that inducing Hypothermia during the surgery and using intelligent severing instruments and specialize healing agents will help him with many confront inborn in the producer

Explanation through medical science viewpoint

The head transplant, in reality, sounds very unreal and there are many challenges ahead if the producer takes place but there are more challenges in the way then the solution. With a viewpoint through medical science, we will try to explain it one point at a time.

Head Transplant

Head Transplant

  1. Sustaining Life after the head is decapitated

The biggest question during the surgery is that how will the Dr stabilize and keep the body alive after decapitating the head. No doubt there has been a question raised on it as nearly seems impossible. But medical science has a very valid and logical explanation for it. The biggest challenge the doctors are going to face during the surgery is to stabilize the head and keep it alive after it has been decapitated and the blood flow stops. Studies on the particular subject’s show that humans can be alive without blood flow it the body is frozen down to 11oC and 15oC. So the normal percentage of the metabolic activity in the cerebral regions drops to about 10 percent. Similar the cardiac surgery has revealed that producing deep hypothermia causes overall termination of circulation. So this condition can be safely sustained for about 45min without causing any neurological damage to the recipient’s head and Dr. Canavero believes that this time limit is adequate for them to reconnect the detached spinal cords.

  1. Preventing cell damage in the spinal cord.

After separating the head from the recipient’s body the questions remains that how do they minimize any cell damage in the spinal cord? Dr. Canavero has acknowledged that reattaching the severed spinal cord is not going to be enough for the first head transplant surgery. The recipient who will undergo the First head transplant should be able to regain some of his earlier motor skills and abilities. This implies that when the head is severed from the recipient’s body it should be done with as little to no damage as possible to the neuronal cells, so it could be easy to restore the connection with a short period and as a result, restoring motor functionality.

There have been many clinical cases earlier of patients with severe wounds to the spinal cords have not only survived but also have recovered from their initial stages of paralyzes and regained most of the motor functions. On the other hand, a patient wounded with a severe gunshot in the spinal cord did not recover from paralysis. Another study has found that axons have to be revived to restore neurological Functionality in cases where the damaged axons are separated by a gap. It is most effective when this gap is less than 2 centimeters in length to generate axon.

So the challenge they are going to face during the transplantation is to reduce the wound area when decapitating the spinal cords, Dr. Canavero proposes using a precise method and separation tool that would help minimize the cell damage. He wants to use tools that will create the force of 10N or less during transactions; whereas a distinctive spinal cord injury entails the force of around 26,000 N. So to achieve a pressure less than 10N an ultra-sharp nano knife made from a layer of silicon nitride could be used to inflict a sharp cut.

  1. Healing, regenerating and Restoring nerves and motor functions

After the head being transplanted successfully, it is very important to restore the donor’s earlier level of motor abilities depending on how fast the severed cords join and the damaged membrane are fixed. And it even depends upon the healing process as the quicker it heals the better neural connections will be restored. Usually, in healthy individuals, the body heals naturally faster when there is a wound or cut over the body. Dr. Canavero has proposed that if using a compound called polyethylene glycol or Modafinil can help the spinal cord tissues to heal faster as studies show PEG has the ability to heal wounds or reseal them on a molecular level.  Scientists are already exploring paths to set up PEG as an effective means of treating spinal cord injury and reinstate or recover motor functionality.

Dr. Canavero intends to apply electrical stimulus at the point where the two severed nerves are fused to increase speed healing. It has been recognized that electrical stimulus not only alacrity up the axons regeneration and activates intended movements in a patient with persistent total paralysis.

  1. After the First head transplant; the complication.

If the healing process comes through successfully then, comes to the post- transplant complications like organ refusal and deprived blood flow in the bodily organs and head are some of the common post-transplant complications. However medical science has all the means to discover such complications and conditions effectively. For example, the presence of a couple of serum protein biomarkers can confirm discriminating refusal in renal transplant patients. The blood flow inside the patient’s body can be found effectively through Color Flow Doppler ultrasonography, which can be used to monitor the post- transplant complication in the recipient’s body.

Every great scientific breakthrough sounds skeptical at first, but the idea of a first head transplant seems ridiculous or even fantastic depending on how much knowledge you have about it, but there is no doubt that with the help of advance medical science it can be done. There are many potential benefits for patients, and if the human head transplant is successful, then people suffering from a substantial amount of spinal cord injuries and muscular dystrophy can dream of a self-sufficient prospect where they can live a normal life and back to doing things they love and do more productive lives. Whereas there will be always concern related to first  head transplant.

If thought the surgery has to go through a lot of legal and medical approvals, it seems that Dr. Sergio Canavero’s claims that he will perform the first head transplant successfully by December 2017.  These claims against Dr. Canavero doesn’t effect the moral or ethical principal of him but rather on the state of knowledge and the timeframe in which he will say he will perform the procedure successfully.

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