A Chinese surgeon and an Italian physician plan on teaming up to perform the world’s first human head transplant surgery in as soon as two years’ time.
Italian neurosurgeon Dr. Sergio Canavero gave a keynote at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons earlier this summer trying to recruit doctors who would be willing to help him carry out the groundbreaking operation.
Apparently he’s found his partner in one Ren Xiaoping, a Chinese surgeon with the second affiliated hospital of Medical Harbin University.
“[A successful] head transplant will change the course of human history by curing incurable medical conditions,” Canavero told Xinhua at an academic conference in Heilongjiang Province. “Ren Xiaoping is the only person in the world able to lead this project.”
You may remember Ren as the guy who performs head transplant surgeries on rodents, and lots of them.
The Chinese surgeon’s team has carried out nearly 1,000 head transplants on mice, according to Xinhua, although the longest a mouse has survived after the surgery is one day.
Canavero and Ren plan to establish an international medical team. They have identified a 30-year-old Russian computer scientist with muscular dystrophy as the first patient.
However, both of them admit that there are many technical difficulties with linking the nervous system, blood vessels and spinal cord in order to prevent the body from rejecting the head. Ren said Canavero has a strong background regarding the central nervous system’s ability to regenerate.
In addition to technical difficulties, they must also design special equipment, instruments, medicines and surgical methods.
The complicated project could take place in least two years with full funding, proper staff and strong leadership.
It’s unclear where they plan on carrying out the procedure. Ren noted, however, that while controversial, there are no specific laws against such an operation in China.