So, you should know better than to complain that Science isn’t advancing fast enough! Italian Surgeon Sergio Canavero has created ripples in the medical community by pioneering the unexplored field of head transplant surgery. Since head is not just an organ, it is a complete control unit carrying the very person’s everything inside a tiny little brain, it is inconceivable that a person could get a head transplant in the near future as there would be a million complications that could occur and difficulty of finding a donor would be a huge hurdle as well. Nevertheless, the field is revolutionary, and Sergio Cannavero had promised us last year that he would go on to perform a head surgery in the near future on a terminally ill patient with a rare disorder.
Previously, he had done experiments on head transplants with over 1,000 rats. The operation itself was successful as the little rodents were able to drink and breathe at will, but complications meant that they only survived for a few minutes after the grueling 10-hour operation. Not discouraged by the lack of positive outcome, the Italian doctor along with Dr Xiaoping Ren of China’s Harbin Medical University undertook a new mission, and that was of transplanting a head on a monkey. The prime purpose of this experiment according to Cannavero was that it enabled them to understand and develop crucial aspects of doing a successful head transplant, notably the main problem of keeping the brain in good shape and well supplied with blood after severing it from the rest of the body.
But, criticism poured in when he went to the press before reviewing and releasing the information with his peers. In academic circles, the person who does that is not held very reliable because either he is looking for a quick shot at fame or he knows too much that they don’t. I am inclined to think on the former since Cannavero has so far, achieved nothing but a re-enactment of 1970s head transplant trials of Dr. Robert White. But, he does claim that over seven research papers are due to appear in the journals Surgery and CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics. When contacted, the journal editor admitted to only two papers currently under review not seven, so there seems to be some exaggeration or twisting of facts wherever Cannavero goes. It is perhaps best for us to wait for an actual research or operation before fretting about these guys. They should first attach re-attach a broken spinal cord before they can claim bigger things!