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12 Sep, 2015 09:20

$11mn, 36-hour historic head transplant to be carried out in China in 2017

Italian doctor Sergio Canavero, along with his Chinese colleague Ren Xiaoping, is set to conduct the world’s first head transplant on a 30-year-old Russian patient suffering from a rare disease. The operation is planned for December 2017.

The project was first announced in 2013, and the man who volunteered for the procedure is Russian Valery Spiridonov, who suffers from the extremely rare, progressive Werdnig-Hoffmann disease.

“Canavero initially joked it would be a Christmas present, but now this is becoming a reality.

Most importantly, it will happen after the results of our tests and additional experiments being confirmed,” Spiridonov told RT.

Canavero explained to RT why a Chinese partner was so important to have.

“China wants to do it because they want to win the Nobel prize. They want to prove themselves [as] a scientific powerhouse. So it’s the new space race,” the Italian surgeon said.

"A lot of media have been saying we will definitely attempt the surgery by 2017, but that's only if every step before that proceeds smoothly," Ren told AFP. He also refused to comment on where the donor would come from.

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“It’s impossible to predict who the donor will be. There is only one technical constraint: the body should be of the same race as the recipient,” Spiridonov said.

The controversy about organ donors in China is that death row inmates have allegedly been the main source, with the authorities promising to ban the use of their organs. However, many argue that the practice will carry on, but the organs would be termed “donations.”

The operation is planned to take place at Harbin Medical University in China's northeast Heilongjiang province. It will cost about $11 million, and will last for about 36 hours.

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Donor and patient will have their head severed from their body simultaneously, with an ultra-sharp blade. Then, the patient’s head will be attached to the donor’s body with biological glue, plus stitches.

Afterwards, the patient will be put into a coma for a month, and when he wakes up, powerful immuno-suppressants will have to be used to prevent the body and brain from rejecting each other.