One of the top stories for 2017 was news that a Russian billionaire by the name of Valery Spiridonov will undergo a head transplant come December. The procedure was to be led by Dr. Sergio Canavero, who has been planning the operation for over 30 years. A year has passed since the set date for the transplant and the procedure still hasn’t been performed, what happened?
We first released the story about the planned head transplant back in March of 2017. At that point, we knew that Spiridonov volunteered for the operation and we had some details regarding the surgery.
It was going to include a team of 100+ surgeons and take over 30 hours. The body would come from a brain dead donor and the recipient would be put in a chemically induced coma prior to the procedure. While a human spinal cord has never been transplanted before, Dr. Canavero did succeed in reattaching a monkey spine earlier in January of 2016.
Fast forward to April of 2017, and we received more details about the operation. The patient will undergo virtual reality training prior to the transplant. The virtual reality system was created by Dr. Canavero to help the receiver get accustomed to his future body. That should, in theory, lessen the shock of the operation. Quite an intriguing concept but one that does make perfect sense.
Fast forward 3 months to July of 2017 and now we are hearing reports that Valery will no longer undergo the head transplant after all. The news were announced by Dr. Canavero’s press team, and mentioned how the patient will actually be an unnamed Chinese individual. We now know that Xiaoping Ren – a surgeon from China – will partner with Italian Dr. Canavero to perform the transplant. When asked about the ETA of the procedure on a live patient, the reply was it’s “imminent”.
The good news is, the operation was allegedly performed successfully on a corpse in November of 2017. The Telegraph reports that the operation took 18 hours and the nerves and blood vessels were successfully connected between two different people.
While the reason behind Valery’s replacement for the procedure was unclear for quite some time, the New York Post reported earlier this month that Spiridonov changed his mind about the transplant because of his newborn son. It is understandable that a parent wouldn’t want to risk their life when it comes at the cost of watching your child grow up.
Spiridonov further went on to criticize the surgeon for not being more public about his experiments with the head transplants in China. While the operation is still being planned to be performed, there is no set date as of now.
If you are interested in further details about the operation, check out this Ted talk by Dr. Canavero himself: