The picture claimed to be the first monkey head transplant Photo: Surgery/Ren/HEAVEN-AHBR. A surgeon claims to have carried out the first head transplant on a monkey ahead of plans to attempt the controversial procedure on a human by the end of next year. Italian Professor Sergio Canavero, Director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group and researchers at Harbin Medical University in China posted pictures of the creature whose head appears to have been grafted onto the body of another animal.
Stitches can clearly be seen surrounding the neck, which looked to be entirely severed. According to Prof Canavero, the team led by Xiaoping Ren, connected the blood supply to prove that the animal could survive without suffering brain injury. They have not yet attempted to join the spinal cords so if the animal survived it would be completely paralysed.
“The monkey fully survived the procedure without any neurological injury of whatever kind,” says Prof Canavero, but said it was only kept alive for only 20 hours after the procedure for ethical reasons.
Ren has also tested some experiments on human corpses. “We’ve done a pilot study testing some ideas about how to prevent injury,” he said. The experiments are reported in a set of seven papers which are due to be published in the journals Surgery and CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics.
The papers also claim to have shown that spine fusion technology developed by Canavero ‘has a strong rationale’ and works in mice allowing them to recover motor function. The team claims that crucial nerve fibers regrew.
A press release ahead of the publication said: “A full monkey head transplant has been successfully accomplished by Prof Ren’s group in China with the goal of testing cross-circulation and hypothermia as an effective neuroprotective strategy.
“The first studies on human cadavers have already begun in China and will be expanded shortly. “The plan for the first human head transplant is on schedule, towards its expected date of realization, Christmas 2017. “
Canavero shocked the world last year when he said that he would be ready to transplant a human head within two years. He wants the first patient to be 31-year-old Russian, Valery Spriridonov, who has a genetic muscle-wasting disease.
Spriridonov, the Russian patient, will only be able to receive a new body in Russia, which will require a commitment from Russian authorities.
It is claimed that initial talks with Russian surgeons have already taken place and the team are hoping to approach Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for finance. In the meantime, Vietnam has offered itself to host future head transplants.
“I would say we have plenty of data to go on,” said Prof Canavero. “It’s important that people stop thinking this is impossible. This is absolutely possible and we’re working towards it.”