Posts Tagged ‘medicine’

By Vanessa Bates Ramirez

In recent years, technology has been producing more and more novel ways to diagnose and treat illness.

Urine tests will soon be able to detect cancer: https://singularityhub.com/2016/10/14/detecting-cancer-early-with-nanosensors-and-a-urine-test/

Smartphone apps can diagnose STDs:https://singularityhub.com/2016/12/25/your-smartphones-next-big-trick-to-make-you-healthier-than-ever/

Chatbots can provide quality mental healthcare: https://singularityhub.com/2016/10/10/bridging-the-mental-healthcare-gap-with-artificial-intelligence/

Joining this list is a minimally-invasive technique that’s been getting increasing buzz across various sectors of healthcare: disease detection by voice analysis.

It’s basically what it sounds like: you talk, and a computer analyzes your voice and screens for illness. Most of the indicators that machine learning algorithms can pick up aren’t detectable to the human ear.

When we do hear irregularities in our own voices or those of others, the fact we’re noticing them at all means they’re extreme; elongating syllables, slurring, trembling, or using a tone that’s unusually flat or nasal could all be indicators of different health conditions. Even if we can hear them, though, unless someone says, “I’m having chest pain” or “I’m depressed,” we don’t know how to analyze or interpret these biomarkers.

Computers soon will, though.

Researchers from various medical centers, universities, and healthcare companies have collected voice recordings from hundreds of patients and fed them to machine learning software that compares the voices to those of healthy people, with the aim of establishing patterns clear enough to pinpoint vocal disease indicators.

In one particularly encouraging study, doctors from the Mayo Clinic worked with Israeli company Beyond Verbal to analyze voice recordings from 120 people who were scheduled for a coronary angiography. Participants used an app on their phones to record 30-second intervals of themselves reading a piece of text, describing a positive experience, then describing a negative experience. Doctors also took recordings from a control group of 25 patients who were either healthy or getting non-heart-related tests.

The doctors found 13 different voice characteristics associated with coronary artery disease. Most notably, the biggest differences between heart patients and non-heart patients’ voices occurred when they talked about a negative experience.

Heart disease isn’t the only illness that shows promise for voice diagnosis. Researchers are also making headway in the conditions below.

ADHD: German company Audioprofiling is using voice analysis to diagnose ADHD in children, achieving greater than 90 percent accuracy in identifying previously diagnosed kids based on their speech alone. The company’s founder gave speech rhythm as an example indicator for ADHD, saying children with the condition speak in syllables less equal in length.
PTSD: With the goal of decreasing the suicide rate among military service members, Boston-based Cogito partnered with the Department of Veterans Affairs to use a voice analysis app to monitor service members’ moods. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital are also using the app as part of a two-year study to track the health of 1,000 patients with bipolar disorder and depression.
Brain injury: In June 2016, the US Army partnered with MIT’s Lincoln Lab to develop an algorithm that uses voice to diagnose mild traumatic brain injury. Brain injury biomarkers may include elongated syllables and vowel sounds or difficulty pronouncing phrases that require complex facial muscle movements.
Parkinson’s: Parkinson’s disease has no biomarkers and can only be diagnosed via a costly in-clinic analysis with a neurologist. The Parkinson’s Voice Initiative is changing that by analyzing 30-second voice recordings with machine learning software, achieving 98.6 percent accuracy in detecting whether or not a participant suffers from the disease.
Challenges remain before vocal disease diagnosis becomes truly viable and widespread. For starters, there are privacy concerns over the personal health data identifiable in voice samples. It’s also not yet clear how well algorithms developed for English-speakers will perform with other languages.

Despite these hurdles, our voices appear to be on their way to becoming key players in our health.

https://singularityhub.com/2017/02/13/talking-to-a-computer-may-soon-be-enough-to-diagnose-illness/?utm_source=Singularity+Hub+Newsletter&utm_campaign=14105f9a16-Hub_Daily_Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_f0cf60cdae-14105f9a16-58158129

By Cari Romm

You may have heard of foreign-accent syndrome, a rare and mysterious condition in which someone suffers a brain injury and suddenly — true to the name — begins speaking in a new accent. Last year, for example, a woman from Ontario began speaking in the regional accent of the Canadian East Coast after a stroke, despite the fact that she’d never visited or met anyone from that particular part of the country. Just a few months ago, a woman in Texas developed a British accent following dental surgery.

Both women are members of a pretty exclusive club: Scientists estimate that foreign-accent syndrome strikes just one person in the world each year. And as Time reported earlier this week, a Georgia high-school student has taken the step further: Sixteen-year-old Rueben Nsemoh, recently woke up from a coma speaking fluent Spanish.

The patient: Last month, Nsemoh developed a severe concussion during a soccer game, when another player accidentally kicked him in the head. When he woke up after three days in a coma, according to Time, he’d lost his English, but he could still speak: His first words were “tengo hambre,” Spanish for “I’m hungry” — and his family quickly discovered that he could now speak the language fluently, despite the fact that he had previously known only a handful of Spanish words.

The diagnosis: This isn’t the first time a patient has walked away from a head injury with a newfound linguistic ability: In 2014, an Australian man came to and discovered that he now spoke fluent Mandarin; in 2010, the same thing happened to a Croatian teen with German and a British man with French.

But these cases, like Nsemoh’s, can’t simply be explained as an extension of foreign-accent syndrome, which researchers believe isn’t really the development of a new accent at all: It’s a sign of damage to the area of the brain that controls the motor functions of speech. Any resemblance to a real foreign accent, then, is coincidental — the new speech pattern is just a new way of forcing words out of the mouth, affecting their sounds in random ways.

Seemingly absorbing an entire language overnight, on the other hand, has little to do with motor skills and everything to do with linguistic knowledge. While Nsemoh’s family hasn’t yet received an explanation for his newfound grasp of Spanish, Time noted that he’s heard the language in the past, from his brother (who studied abroad in Spain) and his classmates, meaning it’s not entirely new. For now, that remains just a clue, though the teen’s doctors may not have much longer to solve the case — for the past few weeks, their patient has been slowly regaining his English and losing his Spanish. This one, it seems, may remain un misterio for the ages.

by Lorenzo Tanos

The mind-controlled robotic arm of Pennsylvania man Nathan Copeland hasn’t just gotten the sense of touch. It’s also got to shake the hand of the U.S. President himself, Barack Obama.

Copeland, 30, was part of a groundbreaking research project involving researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. In this experiment, Copeland’s brain was implanted with microscopic electrodes — a report from the Washington Post describes the tiny particles as being “smaller than a grain of sand.” With the particles implanted into the cortex of the man’s brain, they then interacted with his robotic arm. This allowed Copeland to gain some feeling in his paralyzed right hand’s fingers, as the process worked around the spinal cord damage that robbed him of the sense of touch.

More than a decade had passed since Copeland, then a college student in his teens, had suffered his injuries in a car accident. The wreck had resulted in tetraplegia, or the paralysis of both arms and legs, though it didn’t completely rob the Western Pennsylvania resident of the ability to move his shoulders. He then volunteered in 2011 for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center project, a broader research initiative with the goal of helping paralyzed individuals feel again. The Washington Post describes this process as something “even more difficult” than helping these people move again.

For Nathan Copeland, the robotic arm experiment has proven to be a success, as he’s regained the ability to feel most of his fingers. He told the Washington Post on Wednesday that the type of feeling does differ at times, but he can “tell most of the fingers with definite precision.” Likewise, UPMC biomedical engineer Robert Gaunt told the publication that he felt “relieved” that the project allowed Copeland to feel parts of the hand that had no feeling for the past 10 years.

Prior to this experiment, mind-controlled robotic arm capabilities were already quite impressive, but lacking one key ingredient – the sense of touch. These prosthetics allowed people to move objects around, but since the individuals using the arms didn’t have working peripheral nerve systems, they couldn’t feel the sense of touch, and movements with the robotic limbs were typically mechanical in nature. But that’s not the case with Nathan Copeland, according to UPMC’s Gaunt.

“With Nathan, he can control a prosthetic arm, do a handshake, fist bump, move objects around,” Gaunt observed. “And in this (study), he can experience sensations from his own hand. Now we want to put those two things together so that when he reaches out to grasp an object, he can feel it. … He can pick something up that’s soft and not squash it or drop it.”

But it wasn’t just ordinary handshakes that Copeland was sharing on Thursday. On that day, he had exchanged a handshake and fist bump with President Barack Obama, who was in Pittsburgh for a White House Frontiers Conference. And Obama appeared to be suitably impressed with what Gaunt and his team had achieved, as it allowed Copeland’s robotic arm and hand to have “pretty impressive” precision.

“When I’m moving the hand, it is also sending signals to Nathan so he is feeling me touching or moving his arm,” said Obama.

Unfortunately, Copeland won’t be able to go home with his specialized prosthesis. In a report from the Associated Press, he said that the experiment mainly amounts to having “done some cool stuff with some cool people.” But he nonetheless remains hopeful, as he believes that his experience with the robotic arm will mark some key advances in the quest to make paralyzed people regain their natural sense of touch.

Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/3599638/paralyzed-mans-robotic-arm-gets-to-feel-again-shakes-obamas-hand/#xVzFDHGXukJWBV05.99

by AVI ASHER-SCHAPIRO

Earlier this year, a Syrian American orthopedic surgeon was shopping with his two toddlers at a Walmart in Grand Rapids, Michigan, when he heard the familiar ping of a notification from WhatsApp, the encrypted messaging service: A teenager had been shot in the leg and the bullet had passed straight through his tibia. The fractured bone punctured his skin like a spear. Although it was the surgeon’s day off, he took the call—as an expert in complex bone operations, this was his specialty.

But this was no ordinary case. His patient was over 6,000 miles away, awaiting care in a makeshift medical clinic in Madaya, a town in Syria some 28 miles from Damascus. The clinic is only a 45-minute drive from Damascus Hospital, but it might as well be on the other side of the world. Madaya, a rebel-held town controlled by the Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham, has been held under siege by Hezbollah, which is fighting on behalf of the Syrian government, since last July. Hezbollah won’t let anything in or out of the town; it was a Hezbollah fighter, locals say, who shot the teenager in the leg.

At the Madaya clinic that day, two men were on duty: a 25-year-old who had been a first-year dental student when the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, and a veterinarian in his mid-40s. Gangrene had begun to spread down the patient’s leg, and the dental student, in a series of frantic texts, was asking the surgeon in Michigan what to do. As he walked through the parking lot of the Walmart, the surgeon picked up the phone and called the dental student, guiding him through the steps: Immediately load the patient up with antibiotics. Scrub the wound. Clear away as much dead tissues as possible without agitating the patient. Splint the leg.

“Any other call I would have ignored,” the surgeon admitted to me when we spoke in early August. But he knew that the dental student had nowhere else to turn. He is the only orthopedic surgeon in the “Madaya Medical Consultants,” a group composed of over two dozen, mostly Syrian American doctors, whose specialties include pediatrics, obstetrics, and pulmonology. They meet, digitally, in a WhatsApp chat room that supports the Madaya clinic around the clock. Most of the doctors in the group quoted in this story asked not to be identified, for fear of endangering their families in Syria. Rajaai Bourhan, a resident of Madaya, introduced me to the Madaya clinicians, whose identities I’ve also left anonymous for similar reasons.

Throughout Syria, more than 500,000 people are now under siege. The vast majority are penned in by pro-government fighters, their survival hinging on the medical know-how of the doctors, nurses, or medical students who happen to be trapped with them. In clinics like the one in Madaya, medical expertise is increasingly hard to come by, and remote medicine is often the only way patients with complex ailments can receive a semblance of care.

In Madaya, a year-long blockade enforced by a series of Hezbollah checkpoints, backed up by deadly minefields, has separated its 40,000 civilians from the rest of the country. The town hasn’t received a humanitarian-aid convoy since May, and only the most gravely injured or sick are allowed safe passage out. These evacuations require complex negotiations with rebels in other parts of Syria, in a high-stakes human trade.

This places a tremendous burden on the Madaya clinicians, the town’s two remaining full-time medical workers. Neither man has ever set foot in a medical school. The town’s most-skilled medical practitioner, a nurse with a background in anesthesiology, managed to escape last spring after receiving death threats.

But even the stifling siege can’t keep out wi-fi, which permeates the town thanks to a cluster of nearby cell-phone towers operated by Syriatel, the Syrian cellphone giant owned by Rami Makhlouf, President Bashar al-Assad’s cousin. In February 2016, a pulmonologist in Indiana who grew up outside Madaya realized he could use that wi-fi to smuggle medical advice past the blockade. During the winter of 2016, Madaya’s food stores emptied out. Dozens starved to death, and the health clinic swelled with malnourished patients. As the body count rose, the pulmonologist—a board member of the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMs), a humanitarian organization staffed by Syrian American doctors—grew increasingly desperate to boost the capacity of the town’s small clinic.

“It was the only way I could think of to help,” the pulmonologist told me recently. SAMs runs similar telemedicine programs in other parts of Syria, but Madaya is one of the only besieged areas without any trained doctors. After the anesthesiologist nurse fled, he knew the clinic would need more help than he alone could provide.

In February, the pulmonologist wrote an SOS on his Facebook page (he’s shared the posting, but asked me not to make it public since it includes names of doctors who want to remain anonymous) asking Arabic-speaking doctors to join a WhatsApp chat room that would become Madaya Medical Consultants. Within 24 hours of posting the message, over two dozen doctors joined, he recalled. Not wanting to overcrowd the group, he eventually started turning people down.

The dental student remembered the first time the doctors in the WhatsApp group helped him make a diagnosis. The day after the pulmonologist introduced him to the group, a child, whose body was body swollen and misshapen, was brought into the clinic. One of the group’s pediatricians helped identify the patient’s ailment as kwashiorkor, a disease brought on by extreme protein deficiency. First identified during a famine in West Africa in 1935, its name comes from a Ghanaian term for a child whose mother does not have enough breast milk to feed it. To treat the condition, a pediatrician in Chicago helped devise a formula using vegetable proteins that accustoms children to a high-protein diet. “We were so thankful that these doctors from so far away would volunteer their time to help us,” the dental student said.

The five-year civil war has plunged the Madaya clinicians into the deep end, forcing them to perform medical procedures that push them far beyond their training. They have treated countless gunshot victims, performed seven amputations, over a dozen C-sections, and diagnosed everything from meningitis to cancer, they told me during multiple conversations over WhatsApp and Facebook. “I’ve learned as I go,” the dental student said when we chatted over Facebook in August. “God willing, I am able to help as many people as possible.”

But there are limits to what they can do. Every day, one member of the group, a Virginia-based internist, obsessively checks the WhatsApp group for new messages: at 4 a.m. when she wakes up to breastfeed her newborn daughter, or on her lunch break at her clinic. In recent weeks, she has been trying to help the Madaya clinicians diagnose a woman who suddenly lost her vision, without warning, and is experiencing hallucinations. If a patient walked into her clinic with those symptoms, the internist said, she would immediately order an MRI. But since there’s no MRI machine in Madaya, she and three other doctors have been working to diagnose the woman “empirically,” trying out different medications the clinic happens to have and seeing if they work.

In July, as the internist recovered from the birth of her second child, she helped the Madaya clinicians perform a C-section on a woman pregnant with twins. The veterinarian, fortunately, was comfortable making the incision. But he was unprepared for all the blood the mother would lose after giving birth to two babies. So the internist explained that the woman needed a transfusion. She advised the dental student to transfer two units of blood every 30 minutes—the gap between transfusions was critical, she explained, to allow time to observe whether the mother was having an allergic reaction to the blood.

The whole exchange took place in a series of rapid-fire text messages. Though the Madaya clinicians sometimes send photos or videos of their procedures, the town’s patchy cell-phone-enabled internet service can’t reliably stream videos, and only sometimes supports phone calls. In the end, the C-section was a success; the newborns and mother are healthy and back at home. Still, no amount of hands on experience—even crash courses in surgery and complex diagnostics—can substitute for formal training. “Sometimes, talking to those two is like speaking with a first-year medical student,” the internist said. “You never know what they will know or what will be new to them.”

Doctor Silvia Dallatomasina, the medical-operations manager for Doctors Without Borders’s Syria office, explained that almost everywhere across the country “the medical staff is young or inexperienced, out of their comfort zone.” That dynamic is supercharged in Madaya. “There’s no second clinic to fall back on. You can’t bring in a doctor from a neighboring community,” explained Valerie Szybala, the executive director of the Syrian Institute, a nonprofit that helps run Siege Watch, a project monitoring Syria’s besieged communities. “For patients, there is nowhere to go. It’s that clinic, or nothing.”

At times, the group does indeed resemble a classroom. For hours every day in the chat group, doctors and the Madaya clinicians discuss the merits of different antibiotics, or analyze the urine of a patient, or try to devise a workaround for a surgery. The orthopedic surgeon in Michigan recently taught the dental student how to perform minor hand surgery without general anesthetic by suppressing a nerve in the hand to temporarily numb a wounded finger. “We became more professional, more precise,” the dental student said. “In some ways, its been an academic experience, learning things I had no way of knowing before.”

“We thank God for the group,” the veterinarian told me at the end of a full-day shift at the clinic, via a WhatsApp audio message. “Without them, we would have more questions than answers.”

For many of the doctors in the WhatsApp group, the digital thread tethering them to Madaya has become an obsession. The pulmonologist described constantly looking at his phone, even while driving in traffic, to make sure the group is answering all the questions that come up. “I can’t let it go,” he said. “My soul is attached there.” The orthopedic surgeon said he checks the chat room “multiple times every day.” Before the WhatsApp group, he had to switch off the television whenever it showed images of the Syrian civil war, overwhelmed by a feeling of helplessness. “I just shut my brain up. I didn’t want people even talking to me about it,” he said.

For the past five years, he has been in touch with his family in Aleppo, the northern province that’s become the center of the Syrian conflict in recent months. When his cousins talk about the horrors of life in a war zone, all he can say is “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” leaving him feeling “like a jackass,” he said. Though he has no personal connection to Madaya, the WhatsApp group has given him a feeling of concrete solidarity with those suffering in Syria.

Born and raised in Damascus, the internist hasn’t been able to return to her native Syria or see her parents in five years. The WhatsApp group, she said, offers her a “portal” back into her homeland, a rare opportunity to alleviate suffering. She still has fond childhood memories of Madaya: She and her sister used to drive there from Damascus to buy rare fruits smuggled into Syria from across the Lebanese border.

Remote medicine, of course, is not enough to keep Madaya healthy. Many of the conversations in the WhatsApp group fizzle out as the doctors realize the clinic doesn’t have the right medicine or equipment—or that the Madaya clinicians can’t perform the needed procedures, like brain surgery or a lumpectomy. At that point, the doctors will promise to pray for the patient, and the chat room goes silent. When asked if these dead ends discourage him, the pulmonologist paraphrased a verse from the Koran: “If we save one life, it is as if we are saving the whole of humanity.”

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/08/syria-madaya-doctors-whatsapp-facebook-surgery-assad/496958/


Joshua Neally had only been driving his Tesla Model X for a week when he found himself suffering a medical emergency.

Joshua Neally says he suffered a pulmonary embolism late last month while behind the wheel of the Tesla Model X, which features auto-driving technology, that he had purchased a week earlier.

“It was kinda getting scary. I called my wife and just said, ‘something’s wrong,’ and I couldn’t breathe, I was gasping, kind of hyperventilating,” the attorney from Springfield, Missouri, told KY3 News. “I just knew I had to get there, to the ER.”

Instead of pulling over to call 911 and wait for an ambulance, the 37-year-old father said he was able to direct his car to the nearest hospital.

Neally told Slate he doesn’t remember much after that. He said he’s fully aware, however, that the blockage in his lungs could have killed him or caused him to pass out behind the wheel.

Roughly one-third of people with an untreated or undiagnosed pulmonary embolism don’t survive, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Neally’s health scare occurred about three months after a Tesla driver in Florida was killed when his self-driving car crashed into a semi truck. The incident inspired a federal investigation into the company’s auto-piloting technology.

Neally knows about that accident, but is still grateful for his experience with the vehicle.

“It’s not going to be perfect, there’s no technology that’s perfect, but I think the measure is that it’s better and safer,” he said.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tesla-drives-man-to-hospital_us_57a8aee8e4b0b770b1a38886

Thanks to Michael Lutter for bringing this to the It’s Interesting community.

By James Phelps, MD

If light is an antidepressant (true) and antidepressants can make bipolar disorders worse (true), can darkness make bipolar disorders better? Might darkness be anti-manic?

This idea was explored over 2 decades ago, with a stunningly successful case report from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) demonstrating that in at least 1 patient, darkness was indeed a mood stabilizer (1). But the protocol was arduous: 14 hours of enforced darkness every night.

It was so effective, they backed off to 10 hours, from 10 pm to 8 am, which kept the patient well with no medications for over a year. Yet, as clinicians know, patients still resist giving up their electric light, especially their TVs, tablets, and phones.

Hold that thought; and consider a completely separate line of research, which found that all wavelengths of light are not created equal. Blue light is by far the most powerful in setting circadian rhythm.

A new retinal photoreceptor, not a rod or cone, was discovered in 2001; it is sensitive primarily to blue light (2). These receptors connect not to the visual cortex but to the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus, wherein resides the primary biological clock. They are “circadian photoreceptors.”

Now put these 2 lines of research together. At night, when evolutionarily we should have 8 to 14 hours of darkness, one can create “virtual darkness” by blocking just the blue wavelengths of light. This can be done at the source (F.lux for Windows; NightShift for recent Apple products; and lowbluelights.com for no-blue bulbs and nightlights) or by simply donning a pair of amber-colored safety glasses.

The latter are available as fit-over-glasses, # S0360X; or a stylish version for young people with good eyes, # 3S1933X (purchase from Amazon—or, in a fun twist, from your local Airgas welding shop, ~$9). These safety glasses have been shown to preserve melatonin production at night even in a fully lit environment.3 About 50% of patients responded to wearing the amber lenses with reduced sleep latency and improved sleep quality (4).

But now the acid test: if darkness is a mood stabilizer, and if amber lenses produce physiologic darkness, then can the lenses treat acute mania?

This has just been shown quite conclusively(5) (to the extent that a single randomized trial is conclusive; but note this is a replication of another small inpatient study that used real darkness and found similar, though slightly less robust results (6).

In the new study from Norway, patients being admitted with bipolar mania were randomized to wear amber lenses or control clear lenses whenever they were not in real darkness during the 14-hour period from 6 pm to 8 am.

Thus, they replicated the intervention from the NIMH case report, using either real or “virtual darkness” with the amber lenses. The intervention began near admission and continued for 7 days, during which all participants received other treatments, including anti-manic medications, per usual.

Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS) scores plummeted in the amber lenses group while those of the control group diminished only slightly: starting from a mean YMRS of 25, reductions were 14.1 vs 1.7, respectively.

Unfortunately, the sample size was smaller than originally intended because of growing public awareness of the effects of blue light and blue light–blocking glasses and consequently the patients knew what effect to expect. Thus, this may be the only such study we’ll ever see, and it took 10 years to replicate the first inpatient study6 of dark therapy.

So I hope that this new Norwegian study will not be dismissed as a pilot. The data are in. Time to move dark therapy into regular practice, as has already been suggested in the latest bipolar-specific psychotherapy, “CBT-IB: A Bipolar-Specific, All-Around Psychotherapy.”

But patients are often hesitant to increase their exposure to darkness: it means giving up things they value, especially television and other electronic entertainment. Blue light blockade can be much more acceptable.

http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/bipolar-disorder/new-zero-risk-treatment-mania/page/0/2?GUID=C523B8FD-3416-4DAC-8E3C-6E28DE36C515&rememberme=1&ts=12082016

by Paul Ratner

Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero is planning to perform the first-ever head transplant in December 2017. He will put the head of a terminally ill, wheelchair-bound Russian citizen Valery Spiridonov (31) on an entirely new body.

Spiridonov, a computer scientist, has Werdnig-Hoffman disease, a rare and incurable spinal muscular atrophy. As the disease is sure to kill him, Spiridonov sees the head transplant as his one shot to have a new body.

The controversial surgeon Canavero, dubbed by some “Dr. Frankenstein,” has been criticized for intending to do a possibly unethical and certainly dangerous operation. There are numerous things that could go wrong in such a medical feat that’s never been successfully carried out on humans. The main difficulty is seen in the fusion of the spinal cords.

One positive precedent has been set earlier this year by a team of Chinese surgeons, who successfully transplanted a monkey’s head. Dr. Xiaoping Ren, from Harbin Medical University, led that effort.

Canavero is raising around $18 million to pay for the procedure that he named “HEAVEN” (an acronym for “head anastomosis venture”). The details the doctor has given so far for the two-day operation first involve cooling the patient’s head to -15 C. Then the heads of both the patient and the donor would be severed and the patient’s head would be attached to the donor’s body. The spinal cords would be fused together while the muscle and blood supply would be attached. Spiridonov would then be placed into a coma for about a month to prevent movement and to allow for healing.

The donor of the body would be brain-dead, but otherwise healthy.

How does Spiridonov feel about doing the revolutionary surgery?

He says in an interview:

“If I manage to replace my body and if everything goes well, it will allow me to be free of the limitations I am experiencing. I am not rushing to go under the surgeon’s knife, I am not shouting – come and save me here and now. Yes, I do have a disease which often leads to death, but my first role in this project is not that of a patient. First of all, I am a scientist, I am an engineer, and I am keen to persuade people – medical professionals – that such operation is necessary. I am not going crazy here and rushing to cut off my head, believe me. The surgery will take place only when all believe that the success is 99% possible. In other words, the main task now is to get support for Canavero from the medical community, to let him go on with his methods and to improve them within these two coming years.

Canavero sees the potential use of his procedure not only in situations involving patients with severe disabilities like Spiridonov’s, but also to extend life.

“We are one step closer to extend life indefinitely because when I will be able to give a new body to an 80-year-old they could live for other 40 years,” said the Italian surgeon.

http://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/worlds-first-human-head-transplant-going-ahead