The surgeon who wants to perform a head transplant by 2017

Head transplant

A surgeon who wants to carry out the first ever head transplant says the first one could take place as early as next year.

Prof Sergio Canavero has told Newsbeat he's got lots of volunteers from the UK who want it done.

The procedure would see the patient using a donor body and having their head fitted to it.

However gruesome it sounds, Prof Canevero is confident the technology is now in place to make it a reality.

"It's not a decade, it's not years and I expect to have everything ready to roll by the end of 2017," he tells Newsbeat.

"Of course when it will take place depends on the availability of a suitable brain donor.

"The last facial transplant took several months to be brought to fruition because there was not a suitable donor at the time, but the the tech will be there."

Sergio Canavero
Image caption Prof Canavero will no longer be practicing using bananas

Despite the huge risk in having the operation, the surgeon says he's got lots of willing people who want to have the transplant.

"The list of patients is so long and several of the patients are from the UK.

"The UK does have the possibility to do this sort of surgery and it might really take place in the UK, or in Germany or in France."

The patient

Valery Spiridonov
Image caption Valery Spiridonov wants to have a head transplant

Valery Spiridonov is 31 and suffers from Werdnig-Hoffman's - a muscle-wasting disease which has left him in a wheelchair.

Speaking on ITV's Good Morning Britain, he says he's willing to having his head transplanted onto a different body.

"Today my life is pretty tough, I need to rely on people to help me every day - even twice a day because I need someone to take me off my bed and put me in my wheelchair.

"It makes my life pretty dependent on other people.

"If there is a way to change this, I believe it should be tried and used."

How could a head transplant work?

The surgeon claims the transplant would take 150 medical staff 36 hours to carry out the operation.

He says the first step would be to freeze the head and body to stop brain cells from dying.

The neck would then be cut and tubes connecting key arteries and veins fitted.

Then comes the tricky part - cutting the spinal cord. It'll be done with a special knife made from diamonds because of their strength.

The head is then moved onto the donor body and the spinal chords fused together with a special type of glue.

Muscles, veins and organs are then reattached and the skin is stitched together.

Testing the science

Brain scans

Professor Canavero says they'll be testing the procedure first on brain dead living donors.

"We will simply cut the surgical cord, and over 6 to 12 hours, monitor their recovery and neuro-physiological conduction (electrical impulses).

"We now have a better substance that can renew the severed spinal cord.

"Something that when you put it there you work the miracle of reconnecting.

"The results that we got are so astounding.

"Sometimes people get to the emergency department and the surgical cord is cut 90 per cent. We imitated this scenario with a dog.

"We applied this [substance] and the dog made an amazing recovery in two weeks.

"It was running, and I mean running."

'Science Fiction'

Head transplant

Most medical experts around the world say his theories are 'science fiction' and a head transplant is simply not possible.

But Professor Canavero tells Newsbeat he's confident he can successfully carry out the procedure.

"When everything will be set I expect a 90% chance of success.

"90% means that the patient reawakens without damage and starts walking within one month or moving during physiotherapy.

"Right now we are bringing hope to people who have been let down by Western medicine.

"No more lies. We need this because medicine has no way to manipulate the genes, manipulate the biology."

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