Medical science has changed the face of the planet – increasing life expectancy and improving people’s quality of life. It’s only 2017, but in this century we’ve already been able to successfully grow organs in labs and carry out face transplants. What’s more is that these are only two of the many breakthroughs which have been made in the 21st century. However, the latest medical development is not only remarkable but, until recently, was thought to be biologically impossible. The world’s first head transplant has been successfully carried out.
Yes, you read that right. In the not-so-distant future, we could be living in a world where the body of our dreams is nothing more than operation away. It turns out that Mary Shelley predicted the future when she imagined Frankenstein’s Monster in 1817.
Well, maybe not Frankenstein’s Monster. There are huge ethical implications associated with head transplants. A person could be left psychologically damaged by the procedure, and you’d assume that living donors would have to be completely outlawed.
The first head transplants were carried out on rats, who only lived for a few hours after the procedure.
The grueling head 18-hour transplant took place in China. The operation was carried out by the controversial Dr. Xiaoping Ren, who hit the headlines last year after transplanting a head onto a monkey’s body. The shocking announcement was made at a press conference in Vienna by Professor Canavero, director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, and a full report on the operation will be available in the next few days. “For too long nature has dictated her rules to us,” Canavero said. “We’re born, we grow, we age and we die. For millions of years, humans have evolved and 110 billion humans have died in the process.” Canavero is pictured below with Ren.
The operation was not carried out on a living person but on a cadaver. However, the first attempt at a head transplant on a living person is said to be “imminent”, and 31-year-old Russian Valery Spiridonov, pictured below, has volunteered to have the operation because his life has been blighted by a muscle-wasting disease.
“It will be for a medical, neurological condition, not for life-extension,” Canavero said of the operation.
Canavero was asked whether there was a possibility that the operation would take place outside of China if it was successful on a living person, and he answered with a resounding no. “Given the amount of mean criticism we received, I don’t think we should go international,” he said. “For instance, if you still stick to the Frankenstein schtick, which doesn’t make sense, then no.” “This is a medical condition for people who are suffering awfully so it isn’t a joke.”
The operation which was carried out on a cadaver was deemed to be a success because it proved that the spine, nerves and blood vessels could be reconnected when a head is transplanted onto a different body. However, the news has been met with skepticism in the medical community.