A controversial surgeon is preparing to carry out the first ever whole head transplant by the end of 2017 after “successful” experiments on monkeys and mice.
Neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero introduced the strategy in 2013 and has been touting his experiments since.
In 2015, the 51-year-old presented at the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons’s 39th annual conference, where his speech about the ambitious procedure served as the keynote talk.
Earlier this year, Dr Canavero told New Scientist he had been conducting a series of experiments on animals and human cadavers with the help of scientists in China and South Korea.
“I would say we have plenty of data to go on,” Dr Canavero said.
“It’s important that people stop thinking this is impossible.”
Dr Canavero is working with Xiaoping Ren from Harbin Medical University in China.
According to the publication, Mr Ren has already performed a monkey head transplant and more than 1000 head transplants on mice.
Dr Canavero’s first patient is Russian program manager, Valery Spiridonov, who is suffering from the rare muscular atrophy disorder Werdnig-Hoffman disease.
The 31-year-old volunteered for the transplant and says that he’s willing to risk death to escape his disease.
His transplant will be done in a vegetative state and is set to take place at Harbin Medical University in China.
The two-part procedure is composed of HEAVEN (head anastomosis venture) and Gemini (the subsequent spinal cord fusion).
The whole process involves 36 hours, 150 people (doctors, nurses, technicians, psychologists, and virtual reality engineers), and around $20 million.
According to Dr Canavero, there will be two surgical teams working on the Russian patient at the same time.
One will focus on the Mr Spiridonov, the living patient, while the other will focus on a donor’s body.
The donor will be brain-dead and selected based on height, build, and immunotype.