Friday, July 5, 2013

Head Transplant Tech Now Reality

The First Head Transplant

In the 1950s, at the height of the cold war, Stalin turned his attention to medicine as a way to advance technology and put the USSR ahead of the west.

To this end, just outside Moscow, Stalin established secret medical laboratories to explore and develop new concepts. Scientists were encourage to experiment freely in the search for the secrets to prolonging life. Many of these tests were carried out on animals. Organs were removed from the corpses and kept alive with machines. Dogs were put to death and subsequently brought back to life.

Vladimir Demikhov, a veteran of the Red Army hospitals in World War 2, believed it was possible to transplant organs like the heart and lungs in human beings. Even in the science-mad 50s this sounded far-fetched.

However, Demikhov proved it could be done, by transplanting the heart and lungs from one dog to another. His experiments laid the ground-work for future medical success in humans, but his work never received the recognition it deserved. Demikhov was preparing plans for a human heart transplant, 16 years before the first one was actually achieved.

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One night in 1954, Demikhov undertook an experiment that stunned the world. He took two dogs, one fully grown, the other a puppy. He, and his team of surgeons, operated on them through the night. The following morning Demikhov unveiled his achievement. It was a creature straight out of science-fiction.

He had stitched the head and upper-body of the puppy onto the neck of the larger dog, connecting their blood-vessels and windpipes. Soviet propaganda trumpeted his achievement. In America, this caught the attention of an ambitious young scientist: Robert White.

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Possibility Of First Head Transplant Fraught With Ethical And Medical Dilemmas

A leading neurosurgeon has revealed a project to carry out the first human head transplantation with spinal linkage within the next two years. The project is code-named HEAVEN/GEMINI.

Published in the June issue of Surgical Neurology International, the project has been outlined by Italian neuroscientist and functional neurosurgeon, Dr. Sergio Canavero. He says the procedure would take 100 surgeons 36 hours to complete, and would cost around £8.5 million ($12.6 million).

In 1970, US neurosurgeon Robert Joseph White performed an operation to transplant a monkey's head onto another monkey's body. However, the inability to repair the severed spinal cord due to lack of required technology proved a problem, and the monkey was left paralyzed, passing away days later.

But Canavero believes today's technology will overcome this hurdle and refers to previous studies in which scientist have reconnected spinal cords to rats. Canavero explains that the transplant will work if surgeons can successfully link the spinal cord to the head by fusing severed axons, the nerve cells that transmit information to different neurons, muscles and glands.

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Also see:

Woman Survives Internal Decapitation

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