World's First Human Head Transplant a Success

Getty Images  Jeff Mitchell

An Italian surgeon said he would be scheduling the first transplant of a healthy human head onto another body "within days".

The operation was carried out by a team led by Dr Xiaoping Ren of Harbin Medical University, China.

Professor Canavero, Director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, announced it at a press conference in Vienna yesterday morning. And he says that the successful test shows that his plans will work, according to the British newspaper The Independent.

Whilst Professor Catherina Becker, from the University of Edinburgh pointed out that the head controlling motor function can not be assessed in a corpse - meaning there is no way of knowing whether it would occur in a living human who undergoes the transplant.

Professor Canavero's team had previously claimed to have successfully transplanted the heads of rats and monkeys.

OOOM Agency
OOOM Agency

During an 18 hour operation, experts point out that it is possible to successfully reconnect the spinal cord, severed head and nerves.

While it's being called a head transplant, it's technically a body transplant, where the recipient with a functioning brain will have his head transplanted to a donor's body who has been declared brain dead, USA Today reported. "Everyone said it was impossible, but the operation worked", he said. Several doctors and scientists have pointed out that even though Dr Canavero claimed to have performed a head transplant on a monkey, the primate never regained consciousness even through it seemed to have survived the surgery.

There have, however, been other kinds of recent milestones in the transplant space, including one of the most extensive face transplants ever done and the prospect of human organ donations from genetically modified pigs. That will be followed by a "formal head transplant" operation in China in December, according to Newsweek.

But the medical community has looked at the surgery and the spectacle surrounding it with horror.

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