A neurosurgeon planning to carry out the first human head transplant has revealed just how they will prepare the patient for life in a new body.
Professor Sergio Canavero wants to carry out the operation next year and believes VR can offer the patient their first experience of a new body. The hope is that those who are paralyzed from the neck down will be able to walk again, but with a successful transplant, there may unexpected psychological reactions to putting someone’s head onto someone else’s body.
This is why potential transplant patients will undergo months of VR sessions to prepare for the operation. Little detail about the VR system that is being created by US-based Inventum Bioengineering Technologies was shared, but press photos show a HTC Vive and a harness system for patients.
The system was revealed during a conference at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow on Friday, where Professor Canavero described it as “prepar(ing) the patient in the best possible way for a new world that he will be facing with his new body – a world in which he will be able to walk again”.
Russian wheelchair bound patient Valery Spiridonov who suffers from a genetic muscle-wasting disease has volunteered to take part in the first operation, which would see his head “frozen” to stop brain cells from dying and tubes connected to support key arteries and veins. The spinal cord would then be cut, repaired and fused on to a donor body and the skin stitched back together.
This all seems farfetched, but in January Canavero worked with Chinese researchers complete a head transplant on a monkey, where he successfully connected the animal’s blood supply after the operation to prove it could survive without brain injuries. The monkey was only kept alive for 20 hours since the team did not join its spinal cords, meaning the monkey would have been paralyzed.