Around about 1814 an author named Mary Beth Shelley had a dream about a scientist trying to create human life out of already dead people’s body parts. She woke up from that horrible nightmare and began work on what many consider the first truly ‘science-fiction’ story ever penned she called it ‘Frankenstein’ and most of us remember how it turned out.
But as with later sci-fi works about rockets and space travel, medical breakthroughs and so on that became reality, in the Frankenstein case we may be getting close to reality with the world’s first human head transplant.
Dr. Sergio Canavero – a neurosurgeon who heads the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group is planning for the first human head transplant sometime in 2017. A Russian man afflicted with a genetic disorder that has bound him to a wheelchair has volunteered to be the first patient above the complaints and warnings of his girlfriend. Valery Spiridonov, who needs constant assistance due to his condition hopes to ‘improve his life conditions’ where he can be independent of other people.
All the imagined creepiness of this whole thing aside – this may be at the least a boon for those struck with injuries or disease that have left them quadriplegics. In simple terms – your head is removed from your body and a freshly dead body is sewed on to your neck… in essence.
The doctor has published a series of research papers that detail how he’s severed the spinal cord of a dog, then used electrical and magnetic stimulation to re-animate the nerves so that the test subject was able to walk and wag its tail a mere three weeks after the procedure. So far, so good. The doctor believes in his technique known as GEMINI spinal cord fusion (SCF). Medical geeks can search this term and read all about it.
Once upon a time having your appendix removed was a new and risky procedure, along with other techniques we now take for granted including heart/lung transplants. So the idea that your head could be attached to someone else’s healthy body is at once intriguing and frightening but might could become routine surgery someday.
Surely accident victims, Lou Gehrig Disease sufferers and many others may now have hope, but think about how you’d react emotionally awaking from surgery and looking down and seeing someone else’s hands, feet and the rest? It just might be more horrific than actually being sick and injured, at this point no one can say.
Of course the first volunteer (victim?) of the procedure likely won’t fare well, and end up fulfilling his girlfriend’s worst fears – but just think if one day a head transplant becomes as routine as having your tonsils removed…
A quarterback like Peyton Manning could have a new body installed and play for forty seasons as long as concussions weren’t an issue, a genius like Stephen Hawking could be physically vital the possibilities would be endless – as perhaps would life itself?
It’s Alive and if Dr. Canavero has anything to say about it, it will stay Alive.