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All you need to know about the first human head transplant

India TV Lifestyle Desk New Delhi 01 Apr 2017, 18:11:45 IST
India TV Lifestyle Desk

Yes, you heard it right. The proposed new medical procedure looks straight out of science fiction film. For the uninitiated, a surgeon wants to transplant an entire human head! Italian neurosurgeon Dr Sergio Canavero wants to transplant an entire human head by the end of 2017. And this is no small feat.

Ethical issues

After the news spread, there was widespread concern with people questioning if it was ethically correct to do so.  When such an experiment was conducted on mice, it was a complete failure with the animal dying in a couple of days. The cost could be the death of the patient who could have been otherwise saved with organ transplants. In this scenario, should it be even attempted on human beings?

The procedure

According to iflscience website, the step would be to keep the cells of the recipient’s head alive by cooling it; also the deceased body has to be kept alive. Then, the neck is cut into and the blood vessels are hooked up by small tubes. The challenge here would be joining the spinal cord.  After the spinal cords are neatly severed, the head is then moved onto the donor body, which is ready for joining the ends of the spinal cords.

To join the ends of the spinal cord, the doctor suggests the use of polyethylene glycol to keep  the fatty cell membranes joined together.

The patient would be in a coma for about one month.  Then intense physiotherapy would help the patient to walk and use the body.

The risk involved


There are many risks involved at every step of the procedure. The major risk would be of rejection. The body could reject the transplanted head. Yes, and if that happens, the patient could either go in a paralyzed state to eventually die. However, immunosuppressive medicines would be given to prevent such a situation from arising.