Italian neurosurgeon to attempt first head transplant


Italian neurosurgeon to attempt first head transplant
Italian neurosurgeon to attempt first head transplant

Valery Spiridonov is in Annapolis, Maryland on a mission. The 30-year-old Russian, who suffers with Werdnig-Hoffman, a muscle wasting disease, wants to become the first person ever to undergo a human head transplant.

He’s attending the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons to watch as his doctor Sergio Canavero unveils his plan to carry out the operation within the next two years.

“Look the chances of this working are 90 percent. Of course there is a margin of risk, I cannot deny that,” he said. I made the announcement only when I was pretty sure I could do it.”

Both men, who have been in regular contact through video chats, believe the controversial procedure is Spiridonov’s best hope.

“If it goes good, I think I will get rid of the limits which I have today and I will be more independent and this will much improve my life, Spiridonov said, “We are making a huge step forward in science and I hope it will be OK.”

Canavero is quick to point out that few with Werdnig-Hoffman disease, reach adulthood.

“He is a brave man and he is in horrible condition. You have to understand – for him, western medicine has nothing to offer. Western medicine has failed.”

The Italian neurosurgeon says he’s ready for his critics.

“I prepared myself not only scientifically, but also psychologically which is equally important in order to tackle all of these attacks from several fronts, in order to justify what you want to do, why you want to do, you have to prepare yourself.”

Canavero will need the support of his peers in order to move forward on the operation which could cost around 15 million dollars.

“One of the first concerns obviously is can you just keep the brain alive while you are doing this type of procedure. When you think you are doing a heart transplant, or a kidney transplant, or a liver transplant, you have to cool those organs to give you a longer period of…surgical time before you reconnect all the vessels and you start reperfusion,” said Cardiothoracic Surgeon Dr.Raymond Dieter, a former president of the International College Of Surgeons.

“We’ve seen several professors criticizing Dr. Canavero’s work but you know, there was criticism for the first heart transplant as well and now it’s common place.”

The operation could take place in the U.S. or China.

“Americans invited me to come to America to express my views and I am very happy about that…This is a frontier, the final frontier. It’s not space. This is it because it has implications that go well beyond religion, culture, the future, everything,” Canavero said.

Ideally, Canavero would like perform the operation in December of 2017. The operation will require a team of more than 100 medical workers and could take 36 hours to complete.

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Italian neurosurgeon to attempt first head transplant
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Story By Lisa Kamau
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