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The world’s first full-body transplant – in which someone’s head would be sewn onto a donor body – could take place in just two years, according to a controversial surgeon.
Sergio Canavero, of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group in Italy, believes the technique could save the lives of people riddled with cancer or whose nerves and muscles have wasted away, the New Scientist magazine reported.
The operation was carried out on a monkey with a limited degree of success in 1970. The surgeons then did not join the spinal cord so the animal could not move and it lived only nine days until the head was rejected by the body’s immune system.
However Mr Canavero said: “I think we are now at a point when the technical aspects are all feasible.
“If society doesn’t want it, I won’t do it. But if people don’t want it in the US or Europe, that doesn’t mean it won’t be done somewhere else. I’m trying to go about this the right way, but before going to the moon, you want to make sure people will follow you.”
Other surgeons were sceptical.
Harry Goldsmith, a professor of neurological surgery at the University of California, Davis, said: “This is such an overwhelming project, the possibility of it happening is very unlikely. I don’t believe it will ever work, there are too many problems with the procedure.”
Patricia Scripko, a neurologist at the Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System in California, also doubted the operation would be possible, but said: “If a head transplant were ever to take place, it would be very rare. It’s not going to happen because someone says ‘I’m getting older, I’m arthritic, maybe I should get a body that works better and looks better.'”