HARBIN, China: Surgeons claimed that they have successfully transplanted a human head on a corpse in China after an 18-hour-long procedure, said to be the first such surgery in the world.

Italian surgeon Sergio Canavero, director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, announced that a team led by himself and Professor Ren Xiaoping from China had successfully performed the first human head transplant on a corpse at Harbin Medical University on Friday (Nov 17), according to a report published in the medical journal Surgical Neurology International. 

In a Facebook post after the procedure, Dr Canavero said the first such head transplant on living patients is “imminent”.

In an 18-hour procedure in a laboratory in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, the team reconnected the spinal cord and blood vessels of the head of one cadaver with those on another body, according to the report. 

Vertebral approach after reattachment: Notice anterior stabilization plaque (left) and visualization and section of the cord (right). (Photo: Surgical Neurology International)

Head after full dissection and separation (recipient’s head as seen from the front and rear; donor’s body after head separation seen from above (lower left side of figure). (Photo: Surgical Neurology International)

“This rehearsal confirmed the surgical feasibility of a human CSA and further validated the surgical plan,” the report concluded, citing the abbreviation for Cephalosomatic anastomosis, meaning head or body transplant.

“This first cadaveric rehearsal confirmed that a CSA is feasible and without compelling impediments to abandon the operation,” the report concluded, with the next stage being a “full rehearsal on heart-beating brain-dead organ donors to replicate the actual operation in a live patient”.

Dr Sergio Canavero said head transplant on living humans could be imminent. (Photo: Facebook / Prof Sergio Canavero, MD)

The report stated that the first experimental model of head transplant occurred in 1970, only establishing the blood supply to the brain from the body, without the spinal cord. 



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