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Ambitious but controversial first-ever human head transplant set for 2017

SEPTEMBER 16, 2015
Ambitious but controversial first-ever human head transplant set for 2017

Playing God? A team of scientists has now set December 2017 as the year for the world’s first ever human head transplant. Literally, taking one head from one body and connecting it to a different body.

The risk and controversial procedure will be performed on Russian computer scientist, Valery Spiridonov, by a team led by Chinese surgeon, Ren Xiaoping, and Italian surgeon, Sergio Canavero, at the Harbin Medical University in China.

Spiridonov,30, has an incurable muscle-wasting condition called Werdnig-Hoffmann disease and volunteered for the project.

“When I realised that I could participate in something really big and important, I had no doubt left in my mind and started to work in this direction,” Spiridonov told CEN. “The only thing I feel is the sense of pleasant impatience, like I have been preparing for something important all my life and it is starting to happen.”

The procedure is expected to last up to 36 hours and will see the heads from the donor and Spiridonov removed from their bodies and then transplanting Spiridonov’s head onto the donor body with glue and stitches.

Connected, Spiridonov’s head and the donor’s body will be cooled during the procedure to extend the cells lifespan without oxygen.

“According to Canavero’s calculations, if everything goes to plan, two years are needed to verify all scientific calculations and plan the procedure’s details,” Spiridonov said. “It isn’t a race. No doubt, the surgery will be done once the doctor and the experts are 99 percent sure of its success.”

Spiridonov will be induced into a month-long coma post operation while a cocktail of drugs will help stop the transplanted parts rejecting each other. It is not yet publically known where the donor body will come from.

The scientists, however, said that the procedure will go only ahead on the scheduled date if research and calculations adhere to the project’s milestones.

But the news has not been well-received by some who went online to condemn what they feel is humans, more and more, beginning to act like gods. Most religions see the soul, which resides in the body, as the centre of life and believe the 'order of things' should never be tempered with. New questions will definitely arise if the transplant succeeds.

Others, however, see the procedure, if it succeeds, as a leap in science – although no one knows yet what success would mean for the future.

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