Sergio Canavero, the neuroscientist who first intended to carry out a head transplant in 2015, tells Newsweek the rats which undergone treatment with the Gemini Protocol — the operation of fusing spinal cords— has proven effective and without side effects.
Canavero and a team of Chinese doctors at Harbin Medical Center have announced that they have successfully severed and re-attached a spine in 15 rats.
The team used a polythene glycol (PEG), which seals and treats damaged spinal cord nerve cells. They repaired the spinal cords of the rats, then added a cooled saline and adrenaline to reduce bleeding. The rats that experienced the PEG were then treated with it and the wounds were sealed. They have taken antibiotics for three days after the surgery.
Only one lab rat died and the other survived for a month after the operation. Rats experienced PEG were found to “steadily” and after nearly a month had been able to walk back again, with two of them going back to the “basically normal” state.
“In this study, we thus confirmed that a severed thoracic spinal cord can be ‘re-fused’ with behavioural recovery. Previous experiments in mice along with the current ones define a timeline of recovery between mice and rats: one week versus two weeks.” The team said the key to spinal cord fusion is “sharp severance of the cords themselves.” meaning minimal damage is done.
“Human application of the presently discussed technique would benefit from a method to assess the progression of spinal fusion. This would allow a direct correlation with clinical recovery.” Concluding, the scientists say paralysis after the spinal cord has been severed can be reversed to a “significant extent.”
Canavero tells Newsweek: “[The] controlled study in rats proved that Gemini works. This confirms the small proof-of-principle studies… [and] is a fundamental advance.
“Critics said the transected spinal cord is unrecoverable and thus a human head transplant is impossible…The scans show the reconstructed cord. No pain syndrome emerged over the duration of the study, again rebutting a critic’s ‘worse than death’ remark.”
Not only did Canavero and his team tend to work on rats, but also they are planning to work on dogs.
At present, the first human head transplant is to be carried out in China in December. The surgery this time will be carried out on a Chinese national, instead of the previous Russian one.