Forget transplanting hair, an adventurous Italian surgeon has declared himself on target to transplant an entire human head in the UK later this year.

 

Wanted: Volunteer To Be First Head Transplant Recipient

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If all goes to plan, the plan of Italian neurosurgeon Dr. Sergio Canavero, later this year will see a head transplanted onto a volunteer patient. Valery Spiridinov (pictured), a Russian citizen, suffers from a genetic disorder which renders him unable to care for himself and is to be Dr Canavero’s first patient to undergo a procedure that has triggered a range of responses from among his peers and surgical academics.

Head Transplantation – Coming To A City Near You?

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Dr. Canavero stands on the brink of greatness, possibly. If successful he will join the ranks of medical superstars. If not then the picture editor at the Express will have fun creating more of the type of image above. So what are the prospects for the procedure following the example of other groundbreaking surgical interventions that have become everyday? Transplantation of the first human heart seemed just as preposterous a proposition only a generation ago, until Dr Mahdi Yacub secured himself a Nobel Prize by achieving the feat. His feat would be repeated  by surgeons all around the world, the last year we have figures for suggest that nearly 4,000 patients benefited from the procedure.

There are a few critical new barriers to overcome if Dr. Canavero is to be successful, and we sincerely hope for the sake of comrade Spiridinov that he is, all of which will require him to break new medical ground. One thing the procedures do have in common is the need for a young healthy donor, though quite how the family of the deceased might be expected to feel about seeing their relatives head wandering around on a strangers body is a guess. Mr Spiridinov’s body will be cooled to 50 degrees, which is apparently a state he can survive in they think for about an hour. So the surgical team will have to get cracking – to help they will be using a transparent diamond blade to sever the head, including of course the crucial spinal cord.

From there it is a relatively simply task of sewing the new head on and combing the hair.  Yeah right. It all needs to be reconnected, easy to imagine just how difficult that gets when you are half way through and working in increasingly hard to access spaces. In an hour.

To say Dr. Canavero’s plans have not met with universal support would be an understatement. No less a character than a President of the American Association for Neurological Surgeons, Dr Hunt Batjer, said to CNN “I would not wish this on anyone. I would not permit anyone to do this to me as we know there are many worse things than death.” Obviously Dr Batjer is not one of those medics who pussy foot around bad news – it’s a pretty damning assessment.

HIS Hair Clinic

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To be honest, this scares us to death and we completely understand the position of Mr Spiridinov’s girlfriend who is opposed to the surgery. The fact is though that modern medicine was built on the bravery/recklessness of men like Dr Canavero, willing to push the boundaries of what is acceptable to achieve something truly astonishing. Maybe in a decade from now head transplants will be common. Maybe in 30 years from now we will be able to choose our own new heads… maybe use our own DNA to grow the one we could have had but didn’t, with a full head of hair, bone structure like David Beckham, the brain of a rocket scientist and flawless comedy timing. I think we would all settle for the hair.

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By Ian Watson

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