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First-ever Human Head Transplant Is Now Possible

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Technical barriers to grafting one person’s head onto another person’s body can now be overcome, says Dr. Sergio Canavero, a member of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group.

In a recent paper, Canavero outlines a procedure modeled on successful head transplants which have been carried out in animals since 1970.

The one problem with these transplants was that scientists were unable to connect the animals’ spinal cords to their donor bodies, leaving them paralyzed below the point of transplant.

But, says Canavero, recent advances in re-connecting spinal cords that are surgically severed mean that it should be technically feasible to do it in humans.
The procedure Canavero outlines is very much like that used by Robert White, who successfully transplanted the head of a rhesus monkey onto the body of a second rhesus in 1970.
First, both patients must be in the same operating theater. Then the head to be transplanted must be cooled to between 12°C and 15°C (54.6°F and 59°F). Moving quickly, surgeons must remove both heads at the same time, and re-connect the head to be preserved to the circulatory system of the donor body within one hour.

During the reconnection procedure, the donor body must also be chilled, and total cardiac arrest must be induced.

Once the head is reconnected, the heart of the donor body can be re-started, and surgeons can proceed to the re-connections of other vital systems, including the spinal cord.

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