The future of human head transplants may have taken a step back because of a recent presentation from doctor Sergio Canavero. The speech seemed to ramble on, confusing both the audience and the future patient on stage. In the end, he asked America to “make your contribution” to his plan, particularly the super-wealthy. He also called himself Dr. Frankenstein.
American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons’ (AANOS) held its 39th annual conference with a new speaker, Sergio Canavero. The Italian surgeon made headlines by saying he will conduct the world’s first human head transplant, and he’ll do it by 2017.
As the Capital Gazette explained, it’s not clear where he received his medical training, and the ethics of his human head transplant idea is dubious. But, the doctor can still bring in a crowd.
Dr. Raymond Dieter, neurosurgeon and former president of the U.S. chapter of the International College of Surgeons, explained to NBC News, “I think it’s phenomenal. If you don’t think out of the box, you can’t get anything done out of the box.”
He also questions if the procedure can be done successfully. Nevertheless, he and 75 other medical delegates were hoping for a little inspiration from the Italian doctor’s ideas.
Many didn’t receive it.
Canavero’s presentation lasted two and a half hours — most of it rambling. He cited medical studies, one from 1905, and talked about how a dog relearned to walk after suffering a crushed spine.
Dr. Dinesh Ranjan explained to the Baltimore Sun, “There was not much science in his talk. This is something that may happen, but not by him.”
The presentation included lines like, “It’s cool, it’s technology, and it makes sense.” To make matters worse, Dr. Canavero’s PowerPoint presentation malfunctioned.
Dr. Youngsik Moon said, “Frankly, I don’t know why they put him on the stage here.”
At one point, he compared himself to Doctor Frankenstein, saying “Watch out. I am the real one.”
Some audience began clearing out of the presentation area; others started dozing off.
Still, according to Dr. William Mathews, chairman of the AANOS board of directors, the Italian Doctor is “brilliant.”
“His energy and his enthusiasm for his research is also unparalleled.”
The doctor was accompanied on stage by his volunteer, Russian computer scientist Valery Spiridonov, who suffers from a rare degenerative muscle disease that will eventually kill him — but perhaps makes him insane first.
The toughest parts of Canavero’s proposed human head transplant are the spinal cord and keeping the brain alive. Dr. Canavero said he intended to use a mechanical microconnector system to make a cut in the man’s spine. The blade must be so thin it will severe the nerve cells without crushing them. Then, he’ll reattach the spine using the chemical polyethylene glycol to speed up the healing process.
As for keeping the brain alive during the procedure, or any of the other technical problems with his human head transplant plan – well, that’s where America comes in.
He explained, “The main thing was the spinal cord. This is my contribution.”
“I am asking you, Americans, to make your contribution. I have a detailed plan to do it. I need your help and I need your assistance. Be Americans.”
The Capital Gazette reports that about $100 million and a team of 150 surgeons should be sufficient and suggested that a billionaire should step in.
Still, without some assistance from the eccentric billionaire crowd, Canavero’s dream of a human head transplant might never be realized.
[Image via TEDx]