Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero grabbed the world’s attention this past winter when he announced his plans to perform the first human head transplant. Many doubted that such an outrageous procedure would ever see the light of day. Now, Canavero has a date on the books.
Thirty-year-old Russian computer scientist Valery Spiridonov is set to become the world’s first head transplant patient in December 2017. Spiridonov suffers from a rare genetic muscle-wasting condition known as Werdnig-Hoffmann disease. There’s currently no known treatment.
As you might not want to imagine, the procedure will be filled with challenges and uncertainties. There’s the hair-raising possibility that the head will reject the body or vice versa. The spinal cord might not fuse properly. Even if everything goes well, there’s no telling whether Spiridonov’s mental capacities or personality will remain the same. He’s embarking on totally uncharted medical territory.
Then again, a successful human head transplant could open doors in terms of restoring independence to severely disabled people. And to Spiridonov the risks are worth it.
“When I realised that I could participate in something really big and important, I had no doubt left in my mind and started to work in this direction,” Spiridonov told the Central European News. “The only thing I feel is the sense of pleasant impatience, like I have been preparing for something important all my life and it is starting to happen.”
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