Human head transplant doctor will use VR to prepare patients for new body

By midian182 ยท 32 replies
Nov 21, 2016
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  1. You may have heard about the Italian Neurosurgeon, Sergio Canavero, who plans to carry out the world’s first human head transplant next year. Having secured a volunteer for the operation, the professor has just unveiled a virtual reality system that will hopefully “prepare patients for life in a new body,” an experience that could cause unexpected psychological reactions.

    Professor Canavero is determined to perform the operation in 2017 on wheelchair user Valery Spiridonov, who runs an educational software company in Russia and suffers from the muscle-wasting Werdnig-Hoffman disease.

    Assuming the complex transplant take place, Spiridonov will have his head nearly frozen - reaching around 12 to 15 degrees Celsius - to stop his cells from dying, making him temporarily brain dead. His brain will then be drained of blood and flushed, and tubes made of Silastic will be used to tie up the carotid and jugular veins. These will be loosened to allow circulation when the head is attached to the new body.

    Surgeons will slice through the spinal cords of both Spiridonov and the brain-dead donor using a $200,000 custom-made diamond nanoblade that can control cuts to a micrometer. After this part of the operation, the transplant must be completed within an hour, at which point the blood from his new body will theoretically raise Spiridonov's head back to normal temperatures.

    To prepare Spiridonov for the procedure, US company Inventum Bioengineering Technologies has created a new VR system that will help acclimatize him to the sensation of having a different body and being able to walk. Precise details of the VR experience are unclear, but we do know that Spiridonov will require months of sessions before the operation takes place.

    "We are combining the latest advancements in virtual reality to develop the world's first protocol for preparing the patient for bodily freedom after the transplantation procedure," said Inventum CEO Alexander Pavlovcik.

    Canavero claims to have performed the head transplant on both a monkey and a dog, and successfully reconnected the severed spinal cords of mice. One of the many people taking part in the operation will be Ren Xiaoping, a controversial surgeon from the Harbin Medical University in China who has conducted 1000 head transplant operation on mice.

    Many within the scientific community have expressed concerns over the procedure. Not only do they believe the chance of success to be extremely slim, but there are fears that Spiridonov could suffer a level of insanity never before experienced in human history.

    "I would not wish this on anyone,” said Hunt Batjer, president of the American Association for Neurological Surgeons. "I would not allow anyone to do it to me as there are a lot of things worse than death."

    Canavero is still looking for a location to perform next year’s procedure, though it seems the UK and China are favorites. We’ll have to wait and see if it works, and whether the virtual reality experience helps Spiridonov cope with the effects.

    Permalink to story.

  2. Bigtruckseries

    Bigtruckseries TS Evangelist Posts: 583   +318

    Every single nerve in the body has a special connection and relationship to the brain. Doctors nor psychologists understand memory and can't completely determine the connections shared by cells, nerves and other body tissues to the brain itself. A "head transplant" isn't going to happen anytime soon.

    I believe the "shock" associated with the brain attempting to communicate with a foreign nervous system would be enough to cause a fatality.
  3. PoppaHank

    PoppaHank TS Rookie

    He'll die, and he probably knows it. There are hundreds of things that could go wrong, but perhaps he just wants to help advance the science.
  4. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,681   +1,080

    Trail and error is how we learn sometimes.

    TBH my overactive imagination made me think about the process a bit too much and almost puked.... Can you tell I'm not a medical professional?
  5. Puiu

    Puiu TS Evangelist Posts: 2,653   +1,092

    Way too much pessimism here
    SirChocula and ForgottenLegion like this.
  6. cartera

    cartera TS Evangelist Posts: 365   +113

    I'm a bit confused how they think a damaged spinal cord will heal? It doesn't regenerate and they are not the slightest bit close to finding a way to make it.
  7. Igrecman

    Igrecman TS Maniac Posts: 212   +123

    Is it April Fools day? ,,,nope it's November
  8. ForgottenLegion

    ForgottenLegion TS Addict Posts: 145   +133

    First of all this is a body transplant.

    Secondly I absolutely hate the negativity surrounding this procedure. How will this ever become a reality if we do not try?
    Unfortunately as this is the first attempt at such a complicated operation there's so many things that can go wrong. The odds are against him.

    Now I'm sure they'll be able to attach the head to the body and re-establish circulation but I do not think the spinal cord will be able to be reconnected. He may live for a few days with a new body but just like the mice he won't lost long unfortunately.

    I hope this does further our understanding and I really hope this one attempt is not the first and last one.

    If cloning was pursued this procedure would have a much higher chance of success as the body would not reject the head. Imagine being able to grow a replacement body parts. That's the sort of science we're missing due to overzealous ethics.

    Maybe one day we'll step out from the dark ages.
    SirChocula and Billybobjoey like this.
  9. BSim500

    BSim500 TS Evangelist Posts: 388   +661

    "Negativity" that's more like honest pragmatism. Look at the laughable estimated surgery time - "must be completed in under an hour" for full reconnection of every single nerve in his brain stem / spinal cord plus full neck & spinal bone, muscle, respiratory, and arterial / vascular reattachment? LOL. Back in the real world, it takes over 2 hours just for some regular carotid surgery on a single artery and up to 6 hours surgery time for spinal fusion surgery (connecting two vertebrae). For very major neuro-surgery (eg, separation of cojoined twins) you're talking about +20hrs of surgery time (and their brain stems stay wired to their spinal cords throughout).

    I understand how desperate the guy is and if he volunteers for it as an alternative to euthanasia and if the doctor is genuinely honest about the percentage of failure (and not just bullsh*tting him for seeking his 10mins of fame), they should certainly try for research purposes / furthering understanding. But people are acting like "he'll just love this VR thing post-surgery" after being brain dead for hours on end are deluded. At best there'll be a trace of autonomous activity that probably won't be enough to regulate the new heart / lungs to breathe independently, then a short-term coma on life-support before passing away. At worst (and far more likely), he'll be dead within seconds due to circulatory / neurological shock regardless of lowered body temperatures and they'll spend a more realistic 12-30 hours trying to "glue" a dying body onto an already very dead head.

    Edit: I know you shouldn't judge by appearances, but looking at this photo the guy even has that "obvious mad scientist" look...
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2016
  10. rvnwlfdroid

    rvnwlfdroid TS Booster Posts: 177   +41

    All I can think about when I read this is Futurama. Forget the organic body and go robotic.Or just a jar if you prefer.
  11. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,662   +1,948

    I'm betting the patient will end up in the world of endless excruciating pain for the rest of his life, however long it turns out to be.

    Our body's nervous system is the blueprint of our brain, utterly unique, can be cloned naturally, but not synthetically.
  12. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 747   +357

    If he does nothing, his body will slowly die around him. If he does this one thing, he has 1/1 trillion (guessing here) chance living in a new body - or he'll die rather instantly.

    Aside from the risk of insanity, I think I would take the shot.
  13. Puiu

    Puiu TS Evangelist Posts: 2,653   +1,092

    You are talking as if he a has better choice. It's his only chance to live and he is taking it even if the odds are 1 to a trillion.

    And so many here have their own medical theories as if they are respected veteran doctors.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2016
  14. MilwaukeeMike

    MilwaukeeMike TS Evangelist Posts: 2,887   +1,223

    So you're implying that we're 'in the dark ages' because we can't swap heads? Lol!

    This guy is going to have that head unattached and realize spinal cords aren't quite 'plug-n-play' and there isn't really a way to connect a few million nerves in your neck. it's not like they're labeled.

    Considering they can't reattach a severed spinal cord to ITSELF I'm not sure how this guy expects to connect one from two different people. Maybe starting on a paraplegic would be a good idea?
  15. Igrecman

    Igrecman TS Maniac Posts: 212   +123

    Some patient are struggling to survive with a single organ transplant because the anti rejection medication is making them sick and dangerously weak, so imagine a whole body or head.
  16. ForgottenLegion

    ForgottenLegion TS Addict Posts: 145   +133

    No. I'm saying once we stop shying away from controversial studies we will be able to achieve so much more. If you think we're advanced now you need to expand your mind to the possibilities that await us. We are practically in the dark ages.
    There's too many who are afraid to cause an upset and many who are quick to judge those who they think are playing 'God'.
  17. cartera

    cartera TS Evangelist Posts: 365   +113

    I agree with a massive 'but'. If we can't do it to a rat or a monkey it shouldn't be done to a human. It will never randomly work because we are human. Messing with nerves causes many knock on effects and almost all are negative. Slight compression of the spinal cord can cause massive amounts of damage to the bodies day to day functions. Taking a knife to it no matter how thin the blade is going to cause immeasurable and irreparable damage.
  18. ForgottenLegion

    ForgottenLegion TS Addict Posts: 145   +133

    I know you are right but I am very glad this man is even being given a shot at this.
    I'm sure everyone involved knows there's realistically little chance of a complete success but its a step in the right direction imo.
    I've been fascinated by this story for a long time now. Probably because it's well and truly untouched territory. It will certainly be interesting to witness the outcome.
  19. PrimateGod

    PrimateGod TS Rookie

    Didn't they freeze Einsteins head? So when are we going to see Franks body on Einstien??
  20. Aux101

    Aux101 TS Rookie

    I just don't believe it will be successful but hope I will be wrong.
    I remember after seeing the strange image with spaghetti, I thought this wasn't serious and a bit weird.
  21. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 12,967   +2,524

    Dear god, I hope this doctor gets everything hooked back up correctly. No telling what could go wrong if he doesn't. For example, the transplant recipient might try to make a fist, and wind up crapping his pants instead...:eek::oops:
  22. MilwaukeeMike

    MilwaukeeMike TS Evangelist Posts: 2,887   +1,223

    By any standard over human history we are VERY advanced. In the dark ages life expectancy was 30 years and people thought illness was caused by curses and God punishing you. You can argue that because we still have cancer and aging we're not 'advanced' but if you look at where the world was just 100 years ago - we've a very long way. Even so - how does head swapping even help people?

    Have you considered that someone can have an open mind to possibilities for the future and still recognize how far we've come? these two ideas don't contradict either other.

    Why not work on people who are paralyzed and maybe improve someone's like instead of trying something that's currently impossible. It's like trying to walk a moon of Jupiter before anyone has walked on Mars.
    cartera likes this.
  23. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 3,325   +1,974

    As mentioned, this has already taken place using two rises monkeys several years ago and they monkeys are still alive today, although completely paralyzed. With developments in stem cells and regeneration of cells this is far from science fiction and very possibly attainable within this century, although expense and donor applications will be vastly prohibitive, still, when you consider the number of people who's relative is "brain dead", there will be a possible supply of host bodies so an application is feasible.

    So, as predicted years ago, we are entering a generation where the transplantation of limbs or any part of the body is going to be possible .... just think, Michael Jackson wouldn't have wasted all that money on a white glove when he could have got the real thing ...... arrrrggghhhhh!!!
  24. Johnnyblaze1957

    Johnnyblaze1957 TS Enthusiast Posts: 58   +12

    well you could volunteer and zee for yourself why it will never be possible or feasible and then you will see the dark ages for long time.
  25. Miss Cheri

    Miss Cheri TS Rookie

    I'm not going to say anything negative about this, OK, well maybe I am.... first off I do believe the person will go crazy IF they regain consciousness which is highly unlikely, it would be a total overload to their minds. I do not see how they will be able to reconnect all the nerves, they cannot do it now with minor brain surgery and the recovery pain would be beyond livable. BUT my main question is this: IF they have 'successfully' done this to dogs, monkeys, and mice as the article states... where is the proof? Where are the videos showing their survival and that is was successful?
    Johnnyblaze1957 likes this.

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