Italian doctors are planning to conduct the world’s first human head transplant. The transplant won’t be performed in Italy, however, as the Italian team recently announced that it will be teaming up with Chinese doctors to perform the surgery in China.
It is estimated that the surgery will take 36 hours to complete and will cost roughly $11 million dollars. A thirty year old Russian man by the name of Valery Spiridonov has already volunteered to undergo the surgery.
Spiridonov suffers from Werdnig-Hoffmann disease, an extremely rare condition which causes muscles and the spin to degenerate. Patients suffering from severe forms of it are essentially bed-ridden. There is no known cure for the condition, and treatment centers around long-term palliative care. Werdnig-Hoffmann is caused by a genetic defect.
By giving Spiridonov a new body, scientists may be able to give him a new life. Currently, Spiridonov’s ability to move around and lead a normal life is highly limited. It is likely that the disease will case Spiridonov will suffer an early death due to the disease.
The target December date is a sort of “best-case” scenario and assumes that planning will continue to go smoothly. The date may be delayed in the future, and in the past the doctors involved expressed hope that the surgery could be performed in 2016.
Finding a body will also be difficult, and researchers have said that they intend for the donor to be of the same race as the patient. Securing an intact and healthy body, however, is no easy task. Many people who die have suffered serious trauma to their body, either through an accident or disease.
One possibility would be to obtain the body from a prisoner due to be executed. Rumors are already circulating that the Chinese intend to do this, though so far Chinese officials have denied their plans to do so.