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The World’s First Human Head Transplant Has Been Successfully Carried Out

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The
world’s first human head transplant has been carried out on a corpse in China,
according to a controversial Italian doctor who said Friday that he and his
team are now ready to perform the surgery on a living person.
Dr.
Sergio Canavero, chief of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, said the
operation was carried out by a team led by Dr. Xiaoping Ren, who last year
successfully grafted a head onto a monkey’s body.


“The
first human transplant on human cadavers has been done. A full head swap
between brain-dead organ donors is the next stage,” Canavero said at a press
conference in Vienna, the
Telegraph of the UK reported. “And that is the final step for the formal
head transplant for a medical condition which is imminent.”

Canavero
said the successful transplant by the surgeons at Harbin Medical University
shows that his techniques for reconnecting the spine, nerves and blood vessels
to allow two bodies to live together will work. Although Russian computer
scientist Valery Spiridonov, who suffers from a muscle-wasting disease,
volunteered to become the first head transplant patient, the team has said the
first recipient will likely be Chinese, because the chance of a Chinese donor
body will be higher.
Canavero,
who has claimed to have successfully carried out the surgery on rats and
monkey, said scientific papers detailing the procedure on the corpse, as well
as more details of the first live human transplant, would be released in the
next few days. He said a live operation would take place in China because his
efforts to get backing for the project were dismissed by the medical
communities in the US and Europe, according
to USA Today.


“The
Americans did not understand,” Canavero said Friday as he discussed the
surgery.

Canavero
plans to sever the spinal chords of the donor and recipient with a diamond
blade. To protect the recipient’s brain during the transfer, it will be cooled
to a state of deep hypothermia, he said. He said Friday that his team has
rehearsed his techniques with human cadavers in China, but there are otherwise
no known human trials, USA Today reported. Most medical experts say the
procedure is fraught with danger and profound biomedical ethical questions. Dr.
James Giordano, a professor at Georgetown University Medical Center in
Washington, told USA Today that not enough rigorous study has been conducted
ahead of such a procedure.
He
said patients might be better served if Canavero focused his efforts on spinal
reconstruction, not transplants. But he did give Canavero some credit for his
pioneering work.

“He’s
run the ethical flag up the poles and said, ‘Look, I’m not an ethicist, I’m a
neurologist and this may be an avant-garde technique, I recognize there is a
high possibility for failure, but this is the only way we can push the envelope
and probe the cutting edge to determine what works, what doesn’t and why,’”
Giordano said.

Assya
Pascalev, a biomedical ethicist at Howard University in Washington, told the
paper that there are major unanswered questions about the identity and rights
of the recipient.

“It’s
not just about a head adjusting to a new body. We might be dealing with a whole
new person,” she said.

About Patrick Ireland

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My name is Patrick Ireland, living in the Philippines with my wife and two daughters. I have been studying the web for over a decade. Now that I am 60 years old, I am starting to apply some of the knowledge that I have gained. "Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to never stop questioning." -Einstein.

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