Head transplant: man will be attached to new body in under an hour and aim is immortality, doctor says
The Italian doctor who has claimed that he could transplant a man’s head onto a donor’s body has said that he could do much of the procedure in less than an hour.
The procedure — which Canavero has admitted is just a first step towards his ultimate aim of creating immortality — will see a man’s head removed and placed on a donor’s body.
That will see the man’s head get cooled down — as it is when doctors operate on some parts of the brain — and switched onto the different body. Doctors will then have a few minutes to attach the blood vessels and the whole thing will take less then an hour, Canavero said.
After that, the full joining process could take up to 24 hours. Canavero said that it would be carried out by a team of doctors to ensure that none of them got tired, and that doctors and surgeons from around the world had enquired about joining that team.
Canavero said that he will explain the procedure in depth at a neurosurgeons’ conference on June 12. “I’ll prove it is totally possible to all the sceptics there,” he told Mail Online.
A drawing depicting the first total cephalosomatic exchange in a monkey (from White et al. 1971)
The patient for Canavero’s first attempt at the head transplant has already been chosen, and identified as Valeri Spidonov. He is a 30-year-old Russian man who has Werdnig-Hoffmann disease, which wastes away his muscles and means that his health is rapidly declining.
As well as casting doubt on the scientific likelihood of the procedure, doctors have said that if successful it could cause huge problems for Canavero. One expert warned that Spidonov could suffer something “a lot worse than death”.
The doubt of those in Europe and Russia mean that Canavero could head to China to carry out the procedure, he said. Canavero also admits that it’s possible he could be jailed for carrying out the procedure in an unfriendly country.
“I’m ready for that. I’ve been studying Chinese for a few years.
“You should understand that it’s not simply a medical procedure. This surgery has a political meaning.”
He likened the procedure to Russia and America’s battle to be the first into space and to the moon, saying that the first company to host such a surgery will become a “leader”.
The doctor needs $15 million to carry out the surgery, he says. While that’s a lot, he compared the money to that paid to footballers.
“Do you love football? I hate it,” he told Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda. “Nonetheless, you have slackers who meaninglessly stroll around the pitch and are paid $20-30 million a year.
“I need $15 million. It’s the price for happiness and health for a lot of people. But sponsors prefer spending money on healthy boneheads who can’t kick a ball.”
He said that he had received interest from tycoons and other super-rich people who were looking to use the surgery to prolong their lives. Admitting that the aim of the surgery is to allow people to eventually become immortal, he said that he has no problem with objections from churches and others.
Canavero’s comments come as conspiracy theories circulate on the internet that the entire head transplant story could be a marketing stunt. Internet users have pointed out the similarities between Canavero and a character from the game Metal Gear Solid 5, and have claimed that the entire tale could have been created by the game’s creator Hideo Kojima.
One of the central posts in the conspiracy, pointing out the similarities between parts of Canavero’s work and the Metal Gear Solid games
The conspiracy centres around a number of coincidences between Canavero’s story and that of Metal Gear Solid. Canavero published an article about the surgery, which he was then calling “Gemini”, as an article two days after the launch of Metal Gear Solid 5, which featured characters called Gemini that had cybernetic heads. There are a range of other unlikely coincidences, including special names and timings.
It’s unlikely that Canavero’s story is fake — he has published over 100 papers and carried out genuine medical procedures, as blog Kotaku noted in a post detailing the claims — but has brought extra attention to Canavero’s claims.