Never too far away from making headlines, the controversial neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero is back with claims that the world’s first head transplant is “imminent”, after Chinese scientists successfully carried out the first head transplant on a human corpse.
He revealed the news at a press conference in Vienna on Friday morning, The Telegraphreports. Professor Canavero claims the feat was carried out during an 18-hour operation at Harbin Medical University in China, during which a team of surgeons successfully severed then reconnected the spinal cord, nerves, and blood vessels in the spine and neck.
The operation was led by Dr Xiaoping Ren, a surgeon who has previously transplanted the head of a monkey and numerous rodents. Harbin Medical University is expected to write a full report on the operation within the next few days.
“The first human transplant on human cadavers has been done,” Canavero told the crowd, according to the Telegraph. “A full head swap between brain-dead organ donors is the next stage. And that is the final step for the formal head transplant for a medical condition which is imminent.”
In a phone interview today, Canavero told USA Today that the operation will take place in China because the scientific establishment and authorities of Europe and the US were unwilling to support the contentious surgery.
“The Americans did not understand,” he said. “Chinese President Xi Jinping wants to restore China to greatness. He wants to make it the sole superpower in the world. I believe he is doing it.”
The eccentric Italian’s plans to pull off the first live human head transplant have been surrounded and fueled with controversy. Back in 2015, he estimated that the operation would be done and dusted by 2017, however that’s looking unlikely considering the recent rate of developments.
Even though Canavero has spent the past few year writing scientific studies on the feat, massive doubts are continuing to be cast onto the scientific legitimacy of his big promises. Arthur Caplan, head of medical ethics at Langone Medical Center of New York University, said Canavero was “out of his mind”.
Speaking to Wired in May of this year about head transplant surgery, neuroscientist Dean Burnett said: “When someone makes an extreme claim, my rule of thumb is this: If they haven’t provided robust scientific evidence, but they have done a TED talk, alarm bells should be ringing.”