Neuroscientist claims first-ever head transplant now possible

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Dr. Sergio Canavero, a member of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, may have made a giant leap in the medical world.

Canavero, in a recent paper, claims that technical barriers to attaching one person’s head onto another person’s body can possibly be overcome. He outlines a procedure modeled on successful head transplants done on animals since 1970.

The biggest obstacle in a head transplant has been attaching the animals’ spinal cords to the donor bodies. In past tests, this would leave the animals paralyzed below the point of connection.

Canavero claims that recent advances in surgically severed spinal cords could make the transplant technically feasible in humans.

“The greatest technical hurdle to [a head transplant] is of course the reconnections of the donor’s and recipients spinal cords. It is my contention that the technology only now exists for such linkage … several up to now hopeless medical connections might benefit from such a procedure,” he wrote in his paper.

Last week scientists at Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic were able to restore limited connectivity between the two severed halves of spinal cords in rats.

“It is this “clean cut” [which is] the key to spinal cord fusion, in that it allows proximally severed axons to be ‘fused’ with their distal counterparts. This fusion exploits so-called fusogens/sealants … [which] are able to immediately reconstitute cell membranes damaged by mechanical injury, independent of any known endogenous sealing mechanism,” Canavero wrote.

Such a procedure, though met with extreme controversy, may have major consequences to paraplegics in the future. It could also affect patients with muscular dystrophy.

Canavero estimates that the each procedure would cost approximately 10 million euros, or $13 million.


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