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30-year-old Russian man volunteers for world's first human head transplant
Dr. Sergio Canavero, of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group (TANG) in Italy, first spoke of his plans to carry out the first human head transplantation in July 2013 - a project named HEAVEN-GEMINI.
At the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopedic Surgeons' 39th Annual Conference in Annapolis, MD, in June, Dr. Canavero will present updated plans for the project, addressing some of the previously identified challenges that come with it.
Though researchers have seriously questioned the feasibility of Dr. Canavero's plans, it seems the first human head transplantation is a step closer to becoming a reality; Valery Spiridonov, a 30-year-old computer scientist from Vladimir, Russia, is the first person to volunteer for the procedure.
Spiridonov has Werdnig-Hoffman disease - a rare genetic muscle wasting condition, also referred to as type 1 spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). The condition is caused by the loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord and the brain region connected to the spinal cord. Individuals with the disease are unable to walk and are often unable to sit unaided.
Spiridonov was diagnosed with Werdnig-Hoffman disease at the age of 1 and told MailOnline that he volunteered for HEAVEN-GEMINI because he wants the chance of a new body before he dies.
'"I can hardly control my body now," he said. "I need help every day, every minute. I am now 30 years old, although people rarely live to more than 20 with this disease."
Dr. Canavero told CNN he has received an array of emails and letters from people asking to be considered for the procedure, many of which have been from transgender individuals seeking a new body. However, the surgeon says the first people to undergo the procedure will be those with muscle wasting conditions like Spiridonov.
The procedure - which is estimated to take 100 surgeons around 36 hours to complete - will involve spinal cord fusion (SCF). The head from a donor body will be removed using an "ultra-sharp blade" in order to limit the amount of damage the spinal cord sustains.
"The key to SCF is a sharp severance of the cords themselves," Dr. Canavero explains in a paper published earlier this year, "with its attendant minimal damage to both the axons in the white matter and the neurons in the gray laminae. This is a key point."
The recipient will be kept in a coma for around 3-4 weeks, says Dr. Canavero, during which time the spinal cord will be subject to electrical stimulation via implanted electrodes in order to boost the new nerve connections.
The surgeon estimates that - with the help of physical therapy - the patient would be able to walk within 1 year.
Spiridonov admits he is worried about undergoing the procedure. "Am I afraid? Yes, of course I am," he told MailOnline. "But it is not just very scary, but also very interesting."
"You have to understand that I don't really have many choices," he added. "If I don't try this chance my fate will be very sad. With every year my state is getting worse."
Dr. Canavero has previously admitted there are two major challenges with HEAVEN-GEMINI: reconnecting the severed spinal cord, and stopping the immune system from rejecting the head. But he claims that recent animal studies have shown the procedure is "feasible."
Unsurprisingly, however, researchers worldwide are highly skeptical of the proposal. Talking to CNN, Arthur Caplan, PhD, director of medical ethics and NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, NY, even called Dr. Canavero "nuts."
Caplan said the procedure needs to be conducted many more times on animals before it is applied to humans, adding that if the technique is feasible then Dr. Canavero should be trying to help paralyzed patients before attempting whole body transplants.
And talking to New Scientist earlier this year, Harry Goldsmith, a clinical professor of neurosurgery at the University of California-Davis, said the project is so "overwhelming" that it is the chances of it going ahead are unlikely.
"I don't believe it will ever work," he added, "there are too many problems with the procedure. Trying to keep someone healthy in a coma for 4 weeks - it's not going to happen."
Spiridonov says he is well aware of the risks, though he is still willing to take a chance on Dr. Canavero.
"He's a very experienced neurosurgeon and has conducted many serious operations. Of course he has never done anything like this and we have to think carefully through all the possible risks," he told MailOnline, but adds that "if you want something to be done, you need to participate in it."
Though it not been confirmed when the procedure will be performed, Spiridonov says it could be as early as next year. Watch this space.
95 percent of the victims of violence are men. Because women feel flattered when men fight each other and kill each other to prove that they are real men.
Germans introduce poison gas
On April 22, 1915, German forces shock Allied soldiers along the western front by firing more than 150 tons of lethal chlorine gas against two French colonial divisions at Ypres, Belgium. This was the first major gas attack by the Germans, and it devastated the Allied line.
Toxic smoke has been used occasionally in warfare since ancient times, and in 1912 the French used small amounts of tear gas in police operations. At the outbreak of World War I, the Germans began actively to develop chemical weapons. In October 1914, the Germans placed some small tear-gas canisters in shells that were fired at Neuve Chapelle, France, but Allied troops were not exposed. In January 1915, the Germans fired shells loaded with xylyl bromide, a more lethal gas, at Russian troops at Bolimov on the eastern front. Because of the wintry cold, most of the gas froze, but the Russians nonetheless reported more than 1,000 killed as a result of the new weapon.
On April 22, 1915, the Germans launched their first and only offensive of the year. Known as the Second Battle of Ypres, the offensive began with the usual artillery bombardment of the enemy’s line. When the shelling died down, the Allied defenders waited for the first wave of German attack troops but instead were thrown into panic when chlorine gas wafted across no-man’s land and down into their trenches. The Germans targeted four miles of the front with the wind-blown poison gas and decimated two divisions of French and Algerian colonial troops. The Allied line was breached, but the Germans, perhaps as shocked as the Allies by the devastating effects of the poison gas, failed to take full advantage, and the Allies held most of their positions.
A second gas attack, against a Canadian division, on April 24, pushed the Allies further back, and by May they had retreated to the town of Ypres. The Second Battle of Ypres ended on May 25, with insignificant gains for the Germans. The introduction of poison gas, however, would have great significance in World War I.
Immediately after the German gas attack at Ypres, France and Britain began developing their own chemical weapons and gas masks. With the Germans taking the lead, an extensive number of projectiles filled with deadly substances polluted the trenches of World War I. Mustard gas, introduced by the Germans in 1917, blistered the skin, eyes, and lungs, and killed thousands. Military strategists defended the use of poison gas by saying it reduced the enemy’s ability to respond and thus saved lives in offensives. In reality, defenses against poison gas usually kept pace with offensive developments, and both sides employed sophisticated gas masks and protective clothing that essentially negated the strategic importance of chemical weapons.
The United States, which entered World War I in 1917, also developed and used chemical weapons. Future president Harry S. Truman was the captain of a U.S. field artillery unit that fired poison gas against the Germans in 1918. In all, more than 100,000 tons of chemical weapons agents were used in World War I, some 500,000 troops were injured, and almost 30,000 died, including 2,000 Americans.
In the years following World War I, Britain, France, and Spain used chemical weapons in various colonial struggles, despite mounting international criticism of chemical warfare. In 1925, the Geneva Protocol of 1925 banned the use of chemical weapons in war but did not outlaw their development or stockpiling. Most major powers built up substantial chemical weapons reserves. In the 1930s, Italy employed chemical weapons against Ethiopia, and Japan used them against China. In World War II, chemical warfare did not occur, primarily because all the major belligerents possessed both chemical weapons and the defenses–such as gas masks, protective clothing, and detectors–that rendered them ineffectual. In addition, in a war characterized by lightning-fast military movement, strategists opposed the use of anything that would delay operations. Germany, however, did use poison gas to murder millions in its extermination camps.
Since World War II, chemical weapons have only been used in a handful of conflicts–the Yemeni conflict of 1966-67, the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88–and always against forces that lacked gas masks or other simple defenses. In 1990, the United States and the Soviet Union signed an agreement to cut their chemical weapons arsenals by 80 percent in an effort to discourage smaller nations from stockpiling the weapons. In 1993, an international treaty was signed banning the production, stockpiling (after 2007), and use of chemical weapons. It took effect in 1997 and has been ratified by 128 nations.
Silicone Sally: Japan men find true love with sex dolls
WHEN the spark went out of Masayuki Ozaki's marriage, he found an unusual outlet to plug the romantic void – a silicone sex doll he swears is the love of his life.
The life-size dummy, called Mayu, shares his bed under the same roof as Ozaki's wife and teenage daughter in Tokyo, an arrangement that triggered angry rows before a delicate truce was finally declared.
"After my wife gave birth we stopped having sex and I felt a deep sense of loneliness," the 45-year-old physiotherapist told AFP in an interview.
"But the moment I saw Mayu in the showroom, it was love at first sight," blushed Ozaki, who takes his doll on dates in a wheelchair and dresses her in wigs, sexy clothes and jewellery.
"My wife was furious when I first brought Mayu home. These days she puts up with it, reluctantly," he added.
"When my daughter realised it wasn't a giant Barbie doll, she freaked out and said it was gross – but now she's old enough to share Mayu's clothes."
Ozaki is one of an increasing number of Japanese men turning to rubber romance in a country that's lost its mojo.
He also admits to being turned off by human relationships.
"Japanese women are cold-hearted," he said while on a seaside stroll with his silicone squeeze.
"They're very selfish. Men want someone to listen to them without grumbling when they get home from work," Ozaki added.
"Whatever problems I have, Mayu is always there waiting for me. I love her to bits and want to be with her forever.
"I can't imagine going back to a human being. I want to be buried with her and take her to heaven."
Around 2,000 of the life-like dolls – which cost from $6,000 and come with adjustable fingers, removable head and genitals – are sold each year in Japan, according to industry insiders.
"Technology has come a long way since those nasty inflatable dolls in the 1970s," noted Hideo Tsuchiya, managing director of doll maker Orient Industry.
"They look incredibly real now and it feels like you're touching human skin. More men are buying them because they feel they can actually communicate with the dolls," he explained.
Popular with disabled customers and widowers, as well as mannequin fetishists, some men use dolls to avoid heartache.
"Human beings are so demanding," insisted 62-year-old Senji Nakajima, who tenderly bathes his rubber girlfriend Saori, has framed photos of her on his wall and even takes her skiing and surfing.
"People always want something from you – like money or commitment," he complained.
"My heart flutters when I come home to Saori," added the married father-of-two as he picnicked with his plastic partner.
"She never betrays me, she makes my worries melt away."
Nakajima's relationship with Saori has divided his family, but the Tokyo-born businessman refuses to give her up.
"My son accepts it, my daughter can't," said Nakajima, whose wife has banned Saori from the family home.
"I'll never date a real woman again – they're heartless," he insisted back at his cluttered Tokyo apartment, sandwiched between two dolls from previous dalliances and a headless rubber torso.
Reconciliation with his estranged wife is unlikely, admits Nakajima.
"I wouldn't be able to take a bath with Saori, or snuggle up with her and watch TV," he said, slipping the doll into some racy purple lingerie.
"I don't want to destroy what I have with her."
'To me, she's human'
While the pillow talk is decidedly one-way, Nakajima believes he has discovered true love, saying: "I'd never cheat on her, even with a prostitute, because to me she's human."
As Japan struggles with a plummeting birthrate, a growing number of men – known as 'herbivores' – are turning their backs on love and traditional masculine values for a quiet, uncompetitive life.
"In the future I think more and more guys will choose relationships with dolls," said Yoshitaka Hyodo, whose home is an Aladdin's Cave of dolls, kitsch toys and Japanese erotica.
"It's less stress and they complain a lot less than women," he added.
Hyodo, a military buff who lives alone but has an understanding girlfriend, owns more than 10 life-size dummies – many of which he dresses in combat uniform to play out wartime fantasies.
But he claims to have cut down on doll sex.
"It's more about connecting on an emotional level for me now," said the 43-year-old blogger, whose curiosity was piqued at a young age when he found a charred mannequin in the street.
"People might think I'm weird, but it's no different than collecting sports cars. I don't know how much I've spent but it's cheaper than a Lamborghini," he said.
Future doll users can expect more bang for their buck as researchers work to develop next-generation sexbots able to talk, laugh and even simulate an orgasm.
But for now, Ozaki's long-suffering wife Riho tries hard to ignore the rubber temptress silently taunting her from her husband's bedroom.
"I just get on with the housework," she sniffed.
"I make the dinner, I clean, I do the washing. I choose sleep over sex."
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