Here’s an update on the first human head transplant, which we last mentioned back in April when a volunteer stepped forward; Valery Spiridonov, a 30-year-old Russian man who suffers from Werdnig-Hoffman disease, a rare and severe form of spinal muscular atrophy. Italian neuroscientist Sergio Canavero, who is planning the procedure, now says that as long as everything goes smoothly, the first ever human head transplant will take place in China in December of 2017.
The $11 million, 36-hour procedure will be performed by Chinese surgeon Ren Xiaoping at the Harbin Medical University in China’s northeast Heilongjiang province, although it’s still unclear where the donated body will come from because China is apparently in high demand for donated organs due to reincarnation beliefs. So why China, then? Canavero explains:
“China wants to do it because they want to win the Nobel prize,” Canavero says. “They want to prove themselves [as] a scientific powerhouse. So it’s the new space race.”
To the many critics who say it cannot yet be done, largely because of the problem of spinal cord fusion and organ rejection, Canavero does not mince his words: “All the critics who spoke are ignorant.”
It’s unclear whether or not those “ignorant” critics he speaks of are the ones who are saying that Spiridonov might end up suffering “a fate worse than death” if he goes through with it. Even if the procedure does happen in the alleged time frame — which is iffy, if you ask me — Spiridonov will have to be put into a month-long, medically-induced coma after, and will need to take “powerful immunosuppressants to prevent the donated body from rejecting his head” in the event he even wakes up. On the plus side, he’s still got more than two years to back out.