By Savannah Smith   |  04-29-2017   News
Photo credit: Katarzyna | Dreamstime.com

A bizarre Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero will carry out the first human head transplant this year in China. Following such "pioneering" effort, he will revive a cryogenically frozen brain and transplant it into a donor body in the next three years. Experts and practitioners are skeptical about both the surgeon and his odd ways, however.

Canavero's plans are being looked upon as completely disconnected from reality and the state of modern medicine. But such moves from Canavero are no longer surprising given his history of previous "outlandish" objectives using dubious animal research.

Canavero also became controversial in the past recent years when he claimed that transplanting the whole head of a human onto a donor body is possible. A Russian man even publicly volunteered to avail of the said procedure. The man was suffering from a spinal muscular atrophy malady called Werdnig-Hoffmann Disease. Canavero even went out of his way to prove that his supposed transplant could work by publishing gruesome experiments in 2016, said to have repaired the severely injured spinal cords of mice, rats, and a dog. Cringe-worthy videos even accompanied the experiments showing poor, recovering animals struggling to drag their limp bodies around. Yet from a more scientific and thorough and credible medical practice, Canavero's study lacked controls, detailed methods, and data on the injuries and recoveries. Canavero also claimed to have performed a head transplant on a monkey but did not go on to publish the experiment.

Experts are decidedly unconvinced with his research on spinal cord repair, let alone whole head transplants. A medical ethicist dubbed Canavero "out of his mind" for carelessly sweeping past the currently insurmountable challenges of such feats. Such would include intricately repairing and reattaching thousands of delicate nerves and restoring function. Doctors at present can't even convince the immune system to accept far simpler transplants consistently. Effects of such a transplant on the powerful human psyche are still completely unknown.

Canavero remains determined, though. In his interview with the German magazine Ooom, he did not only stand by the idea of successfully transplanting a head, he also made a more absurd claim: that he would revive a cryogenically frozen brain and transplant it into a donor body. Canavero claimed that he would obtain a preserved brain from Alcor Life Extension Foundation, a cryonics company located in Scottsdale, Arizona.

There is at present no way to revive and molecularly repair a frozen human brain. Such transplants have not even been attempted in animals. The medical world foresees the surgical procedure is decades, if not centuries, away. Alcor is also distancing itself from the neurosurgeon. It said Canavera had not even contacted their company. It argued that it is not yet possible to revive human brains cryopreserved with present methods. Other cryonics leaders also noted that Canavera's efforts are not realistic nor do they share his goal.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/04/human-head-brain-transplants-coming-in-3-years-outlandish-surgeon-claims/

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