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Extreme Spinal Cord Science: “Head Transplant” Doctor Claims Laboratory Success

Head transplants may seem like something out of a science fiction story, but research shows they could soon be a real possibility in cases of extreme spinal cord injury. Dr. Sergio Canavero, an Italian neuroscientist, first announced that he believed a human head transplant would be possible in 2015. Now, he has announced he has had success performing the procedure on animals in his lab, including mice, rats, even a dog.

The new findings on head transplant surgery appeared in Surgical Neurology International. The papers, co-edited by Canavero, described a research team from the United States and South Korea applying Canavero’s method to reconnect the severed spinal cords of different animals. The process uses a chemical called polyethylene glycol, or PEG, to fuse the severed ends of the spinal cord. Surgeons then use PEG to flush the area repeatedly during the next few hours, encouraging the fatty membranes of the spinal cord cells to mesh back together.

Head Transplant Surgery Research

However, the findings and reports of success are vague at best. Four of the five rats in the latest round of experiments died during a flood in the lab, so the research team was unable to gather results. The fifth rat did purportedly show some signs of success, with the team reporting minor movement two days after the surgery and close to full movement – standing up on two legs and feeding itself – by two weeks post-surgery.

If researchers, led by Dr. Canavero, do attempt to perform the surgery on a human being, they have a volunteer. Valery Spiridonov is a Russian man who suffers from Werdnig-Hoffman disease, a genetic degenerative disorder. If the procedure goes through, doctors would sever Spiridonov’s head and reattach it to a donor body (at this time, a suitable donor body has not been found). The entire procedure and all the research involved are extremely controversial, and many scientists are highly skeptical of its chances for success.

Regardless of when or if surgeons perform a successful head transplant surgery on a human, the research going into the procedure could provide great benefits for patients suffering from extreme spinal cord injuries. If you or a loved one have been involved in a spinal cord injury, contact the spinal cord injury lawyers at Roberts Accident Law today.



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