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Russian Man Volunteers for the First Human Head Transplant

Russian Man Volunteers for the First Human Head Transplant

Valery Spiridonov, a 31-year-old man who runs an educational software company from his home in Vladimir, Russia, is afflicted with Werdnig-Hoffmann disease. It’s causing his muscles to deteriorate and is destroying his motor neurons, which leaves him largely unable to move his body. It is for this reason that Spiridonov sees a head transplant as his only option.

“Removing all the sick parts but the head would do a great job in my case,” he said to The Atlantic. “I couldn’t see any other way to treat myself.”

Of course, there are plenty of hurdles. As The Atlantic put it, “Unlike, say, fingers, which can survive for days detached from a body, brains suffer irreversible damage within minutes of losing blood flow. Cooling the brain can delay damage for up to an hour—just enough time, perhaps, to transplant a head.”

Still, there is some precedent for this kind of surgery, but it doesn’t leave much hope for a positive prognosis: Italian neurosurgeon Dr. Sergio Canavero, who is to perform the transplant on Spiridonov, claims to have performed a head transplant on a monkey that survived for 20 hours afterwords, but that claim has yet to be verified. Many scientists and researchers are immensely skeptical of Canavero’s assertions.

Regardless of the level of success of the transplant, Spiridonov’s operation will surely advance our understanding of how the body works. We’re of course pulling for a positive outcome, though. Read more about the transplant here.

Featured image: Army Medicine

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