Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Surgeon plans first head transplant

26 May 2015, 09:03

Berlin - An Italian surgeon claims he will be ready to undertake a head transplant in 2017, although colleagues elsewhere doubt the technical feasibility of the operation, quite apart from the ethical nightmare that will result if it goes wrong.

Turin neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero is to present his case to the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons (AANOS) in Annapolis, Maryland, in June.

"I think we are now at a point when the technical aspects are all feasible," Canavero told the journal New Scientist, adding that he already has potential candidates for the operation

Edgar Biemer, a German professor whose team carried out a ground-breaking double-arm transplant in 2008, takes a different view.

Also Read: Malawi sex workers to get damages over forced HIV tests

"It's impossible. It's speculative and there's nothing of this kind on the horizon into the distant future," Biemer, now retired, told dpa.

Canavero was not available for comment. According to AANOS, he has been investigating the possibility of a head transplant for the past 30 years, although little is known of his work.

According to the New Scientist article, Canavero plans to cool the bodies of a brain-dead donor and of the recipient, so that the cells can survive as long as possible without oxygen. Hundreds of doctors are to be involved.

The key point would be to sever the spinal cords of both cleanly.


Veit Braun, head of neurosurgery at Siegen Hospital in Germany, says it can't be done.

"After you cut the spinal cord from the head, you can never put it back together again," he told dpa. "It won't work," the professor said bluntly. At best the patient will end up with a functioning brain unable to communicate with its new body.

"This is extremely unethical," he said.

Canavero plans to fuse the two spinal cords, which he compares with two densely packed bundles of uncooked spaghetti, by flushing the area with polyethylene glycol.

Just as hot water makes dry spaghetti stick together, polyethylene glycol encourages the fat in cell membranes to mesh, according to the New Scientist article.

There have been several experiments in doing this with animals, but none of the animals have survived more than a couple of days.

Ren Xiao-Ping of China's Harbin Medical University transplanted a mouse's head in 2013.

Ren told China's People's daily that Canavero had been in touch with him, asking for advice.

Canavero's patient is to spend three to four weeks in an induced coma after the operation. After being brought out of it, the patient should be able to speak. After a year's physiotherapy, he would have enough control over his new body to walk.

The operation itself is expected to take 36 hours and cost more than $10m.

Also Read: Ekiti First Lady pays for colleagues' health bills

A Russian computer programmer, Valery Spiridonov, aged 30, has volunteered to be the first to have his head transplanted onto a healthy body.

Spiridonov suffers from Werdnig-Hoffmann disease, a muscle-wasting disease, and is confined to a wheelchair.

"I know that I might die on the operating table," he said, but added: "My decision is final and I do not plan to change my mind...

"I am scared. But what people don't really understand is that I don't really have many choices," he said.

Spiridonov takes the view that he does not have long to live in any case.

Believing he has surmounted the technical problems, Canavero acknowledges the ethical issues are considerable.

"Should an operation like this be carried out at all? There will apparently be many people who do not think so," he said.



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...