US (BBN)-The first human head transplant could take place in just two years, according to a radical proposal by an Italian surgeon.
Sergio Canavero, from the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, wants the surgery to be used to help extend the lives of people who have suffered degeneration of the muscles and nerves or those who have advanced cancer, reports Sky News.
The surgeon plans to announce the project at the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons (AANOS) conference in Annapolis, Maryland, in June, the New Scientist reported.
Mr Canavero published a paper on the technique he would use in the Surgical Neurology International journal this month.
The recipient’s head and the donor body would be cooled at the start of the procedure to extend the time that cells can survive without oxygen.
Tissue around the neck would be dissected and major blood vessels would be joined using tiny tubes.
The spinal cords would then be cut and the recipient’s head moved on to the donor body.
The ends of the spinal cord would be fused together using a chemical called polyethylene glycol, which encourages fat within cell membranes to mesh.
After this, the person would be put into a coma for around four weeks to prevent them moving while they heal.
Mr Canavero said he would expect the patient to be able to move and feel their face when they awoke, they would speak with the same voice and they should be able to walk within a year.
He first proposed the idea of the surgery in 2013.
He told the New Scientist: “If society doesn’t want it, I won’t do it. But if people don’t want it, in the US or Europe, that doesn’t mean it won’t be done somewhere else.
“I’m trying to go about this the right way, but before going to the moon, you want to make sure people will follow you.”
The first successful head transplant – involving moving the head of one monkey on to another – was carried out in 1970 at the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, US.
The monkey lived for nine days, but its immune system rejected the head.