Surgeon Sergio Canavero, from the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group in Italy, is convinced he can successfully take the head of one person and attach it to the body of another. Now he has a volunteer willing to be his first human test subject.
Canavero first introduced the idea of full head transplantation in the Surgical Neurology International journal in 2013, and in a TED Talk titled "The Future is Now," he detailed how it might be accomplished.
Ignoring the fact that this guy kind of looks like he walked straight off the set of "The Human Centipede," he does make a valid point that this whole "head transplanting thing" could solve a lot of problems.
To start, he specifically mentions it could cure cancer and help people with spinal muscle atrophy. And, off the top of our heads (pun intended), we can think of a few other things getting a brand new body could easily repair too: Gender reassignment? Just get a new body! Obesity? Put your head on a skinny person, and voilà! Sure, you may still have a double chin, but at least your abs will look great.
"But who in their right mind would undergo such a procedure?" you ask.
Last week, 30-year-old Valeri Spiridonov from Russia volunteered to be the world's first human to have his head cut off, and placed atop a completely different body.
"I can hardly control my body now," he told MailOnline in an interview. "I need help every day, every minute. I am now 30 years old, although people rarely live to more than 20 with this disease."
Even though Dr. Canavero is convinced the technology exists to ensure that the body doesn't reject the head (or vice versa), he is not without his critics.
"I would not wish this on anyone... I would not allow anyone to do it to me as there are a lot of things worse than death."
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Writer Chistopher Hooton of The Independent goes on to explain, "The problem is, fusing a head with a separate body (including spinal cord, jugular vein, etc.) could result in a hitherto never experienced level and quality of insanity."
Potential medical problems aside, many point to the ethical dilemmas of performing such an expensive, complicated procedure. A NewsWeek article mentions Professor Frenguelli, who points to one very important question: Is it right to use an entire donor body to benefit a single recipient when that body could potentially benefit several people in need of various organs?
Canvero is determined not to let the skeptics get in his way, however, and believes the surgery could be a reality in just two years.
Watch his TED Talk about it here:
CNN reports Canvero has been crowdfunding, and selling his book "Head Transplantation and the Quest for Immortality," to raise money for the procedure. He plans to present to American Academy of Neurological and Orthopedic Surgeons (AANOS) in June in hopes of using their facility to actually go through with, what he speculates, will be a 36 hour procedure involving the help of 150 doctors and nurses.
Yup, this surgery could happen in the year 2017.
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