The human body can do marvelous things, and modern science has made it possible to do the impossible in terms of surgeries and transplants. Not only have scientists been able to grow human body parts in labs, but the science that has gone into fake limbs and transplants is astounding. From skin to organs to entire limbs, it seems as though no transplant is impossible in our ever-growing medical world. But there are transplants that have never been attempted on a human before (that are known), and one of those is a head transplant.
But in view of scientific possibility, there is someone willing to undergo a head transplant and a surgeon willing to take on the extraordinary feat of attempting one. Valery Spiridonov, who is Russian, has volunteered himself to be the first ever human head-transplant guinea pig. Just 30 years old, Spiridonov suffers from a genetic condition that causes his muscles to waste away, Werdnig-Hoffman disease. Spiridonov says he’s experiencing a “sense of pleasant impatience” when it comes to the possibility of the head transplant.
Dr. Sergio Canavero, an Italian neurosurgeon, has volunteered to perform the transplant; and it’s no small undertaking, especially when modern science has yet to attempt something so incredible as transplanting one person’s head onto another person’s body. While the idea seems like it could be the plot of a futuristic science-fiction thriller, Dr. Canavero believes it to be entirely possible. He has given him and his team of skilled surgeons two years to make the head transplant a reality, hoping to do the procedure in 2017.
But professionals in the medical community are quick to dispute the claim. Dr. Thomas Cochrane, director of neuroethics at the Center for Bioethics at Harvard Medical School, believes the actual science of the day does not provide enough evidence that a head transplant could actually work. Dr. Cochrane and other surgeons point to the half-successful transplantation of heads on dogs, monkeys, and other animals. Another major point that’s been addressed by those who believe the surgery is a death sentence is the fact that surgeons and scientists have yet to successfully connect a brain to a spinal cord. Because that science has yet to present itself, opponents of the surgery believe that the brain would have to be connected to a computer in order to control the body, and even that science and technology has yet to be developed.
Dr. Canavero believes he can do it despite the major hurdles of fusing the spinal cords, preventing the body from rejecting the head, and, ultimately, keeping the brain alive during the procedure. While the evidence might not currently be present to back up the theoretical science, the idea of being able to help those who have degenerative disorders, cancer, and other life-threatening or life-altering disabilities is Dr. Canavero’s main reason for attempting the transplant.
Fifty years ago, the idea of growing human organs in a lab was still something dreams were made of; and yet, modern science is doing it today. While a head transplant might seem like utter nonsense and the stuff of fiction, never take science, medicine or technology for granted. As we’ve seen, even the impossible is possible.