TECH
14/09/2015 16:09 BST | Updated 14/09/2015 16:59 BST

First Human Head Transplant Date Officially Set For 2017

It's finally happening. A controversial human head transplant operation now has a date and a team of neurosurgeons willing to undergo the procedure.

Italian neurosurgeon Dr Sergio Canavero has, according to CEN, announced that he will be carrying out the procedure at Harbin Medical University in China along with a team of both Chinese and Italian surgeons.

valery spiridonov

Valery Spiridonov has agreed to undergo the procedure.

Dr Canavero has been talking about the controversial procedure for years but it was only this year that he was able to find a willing volunteer that would be happy to undergo the operation.

Russian computer scientist Valery Spiridonov is that volunteer. Suffering from a muscle-wasting condition called Werdnig-Hoffmann disease, Spiridonov hopes that the procedure will give him a second chance.

The $15m surgery would see Spiridinov’s head removed from his body and attached to a healthy body from a brain dead donor.

On Friday the pair appeared at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons in Maryland.

Dr Canavero, who was filmed kneeling at Spiridinov’s feet telling him: “We can do it”, said: “The chances of this working are 90 per cent, of course there is a marginal risk. I cannot deny that.”

valery spiridonov and dr sergio canavero

'We can do it': Dr Sergio Canavero kneels at Spiridinov’s feet

Referring to Spiridinov, he said: “He is a brave man and he is in horrible condition. You have to understand - for him, Western medicine has nothing to offer. Western medicine has failed.”

Spiridinov, who is confined to a wheelchair, admitted he is nervous but said: “If it goes good, I think I will get rid of the limits which I have today.”

Of his critics, Dr Canavero said: “I prepare myself, not only scientifically but also psychologically which is equally important in order to tackle all these attacks on several fronts.

head transplant

In 1971 a Dr Robert White transplanted the head of one monkey onto the body of another

“There’s implications well beyond religion, culture, the future, everything. There is risk in everything. [If] We stop taking risks, [then] relax, lie back and wait for your death to come."

Cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Raymond Dieter attended the conference. He remarked: “One of the first concerns obviously is can you just keep the brain alive while you’re doing this type of procedure.

"When you think you are doing a heart transplant, or a kidney transplant, or a liver transplant, you have to cool those organs to give you a longer period of … surgical time before you reconnect all the vessels and you start reperfusion.”

Dr Canavero announced his bold claims in February, via a paper published in Surgical Neurology International.