An Italian neurosurgeon commits to perform the world’s first head transplant and asks Americans for help.

On Friday, Dr. Sergio Canavero gave a 2.5-hour presentation Friday at a conference of the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopedic Surgeons in Annapolis, Maryland. He first announced his project in 2013, saying at the time that such a procedure could be possible as soon as 2016. Well, the time is approaching, and the surgeon has a volunteer that wants to experiment with this project. Valery Spiridonov, the man who has volunteered to undergo the procedure, has Werdnig-Hoffmann disease, or spinal muscular atrophy that is incurable.

Canavero described at length how he would mend a severed spinal cord — a crucial factor in any such surgery — and described advances in the field, especially on animals.

The secret is to use a nano blade to cut the cord, then polyethylene glycol and an electrical current to accelerate the reconnection of severed nerve fibers. But he admitted his knowledge was incomplete and didn’t go into much detail about the profusion of other major problems that could be expected with such an unfathomably drastic operation.


Medical experts have been casting serious doubts on his claims, but the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons and International College of Surgeons invited Canavero to speak to their joint meeting in Annapolis. “He’s stimulated the whole world,” Dr. Raymond Dieter, a cardiothoracic surgeon from Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and a past president of the U.S. chapter of the International College of Surgeons.

“Is it possible to transplant my brain into your body? No,” added Dieter. “In three to five minutes, if we don’t have circulation back to your brain, you’re dead.”

“Technically, we can cut your head off. We can attach the skin. We can hook up the arteries. We can hook up the nerves. But can you hook up the brain and spinal tissue?”

Among those issues is how to maintain and restore blood flow to the brain, or how to reconnect the parasympathetic nervous system, a key component of an organism’s automatic functions. He didn’t address how to safely awaken the patient from a coma or if the brain were to survive the procedure undamaged. There’s a plethora of unanswered questions. Hopefully, he answers all questions and gathers an efficient group of surgeons before taking on this unimaginable task.

At the end of his presentation, Canavero asked his US peers for help- both with the science and the cash needed for the project. It’s projected to cost $100 million.

“I need your help and I need your assistance. Be Americans,” he added.

The surgeon plans to begin procedure in December 2017.