First Human Head Transplant Not A Success After All

There's been a lot of talk - and confusion - about head transplants recently. First, it was reported that a live one was imminent after a man suffering from Werdnig-Hoffmann disease put himself forward as a volunteer.

Then there were claims by Italian professor Sergio Canavero that the first human head transplant on a corpse had been successfully completed by Professor Ren Xiaoping.

Sergio Canavero
Sergio Canavero

Credit: PA

But now Professor Ren has said that's not what happened. In a clarifying statement, he has said that he and his team had completed the 'first surgical model' for a human head transplant rather than an actual operation.

Professor Canavero had also claimed during a press conference in Vienna that a similar operation on a live human would take place "imminently", hinting that "imminently" meant before the end of 2017.

Professor Ren, however, has shot that notion down, too, saying he doesn't know when the procedure would happen and stressing that 'there is a long way to go'.

head transplant
head transplant

Credit: PA. Sergio Canavero with Valery Spiridonov, who had previously volunteered for surgery

But he did say that his team had successfully conducted a head transplant experiment on a dog. Professor Ren and his team have also carried out a similar procedure on a mouse.

During a press conference today at Harbin Medical University, he announced that his team "recently had a significant scientific breakthrough: to complete the first surgical model for head transplant."

Professor Ren, who is a PhD supervisor and U.S.-educated surgeon from The Second Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University in north-west China's Heilongjiang Province, explained that they designed the "pre-clinical operational method" on a recently deceased corpse.

He said that the breakthrough that they made was finding a solution to help with the re-growth of the spine, which has long been a stumbling block for these types of operations - and presumably a huge plot hole in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Professor Ren then played a video to the journalists which showed his team carrying out a head transplant experiment on a dog.

The surgeon claimed that the dog's spine was completed during the experiment, and that his team were able to successfully re-connect it with the spine in the new head using a chemical compound called polyethylene glycol.

He claimed that the dog could start to walk two weeks after the operation and run two months after the operation. He said that one year on, the result of the experiment appeared "very good" but did admit the lab dog wasn't acting like a completely normal dog. No shit, Sherlock - we'd probably have a few issues if that was us, too.

Where that leaves Professor Canavero's plans for a human head transplant we don't exactly know. But given this is a guy who called the fact that humans naturally age and die "genocide on a mass scale" we're not sure we want to know either.

Featured Image Credit: PA. Valery Spiridonov (left) had volunteered for a head transplant but changed his mind

Chris Ogden

Chris Ogden is a journalist at LADbible. He graduated from the University of East Anglia with degrees in English Literature and Creative Writing before completing his NCTJ Diploma in Multimedia Journalism. Chris has previously written for the independent culture magazine The Skinny, among other publications.

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