Neurosurgeon hopes he can perform the world's first head transplant in the UK

A neurosurgeon planning to carry out the first human head transplant hopes to perform the operation in the UK.

Professor Sergio Canavero said the UK looks like the “most promising place” in Europe for the procedure, which he believes could lead to people paralysed from the neck down being able to walk again.

On Friday at a talk in Glasgow he unveiled a virtual reality system that will “prepare patients for life in a new body”.

Russian wheelchair user Valery Spiridonov has volunteered to take part in the first operation, which would see his head “frozen” to stop brain cells from dying and tubes connected to support key arteries and veins.

The spinal cord would then be cut, repaired and fused on to a donor body and the skin stitched back together.

If successful the process could still lead to “unexpected psychological reactions” from the patient as they get used to their new life, so a virtual reality world to prepare them for a different body is being developed.

Prof Canavero said: “This virtual reality system prepares the patient in the best possible way for a new world that he will be facing with his new body.

“A world in which he will be able to walk again.”

The neurosurgeon hopes to carry out the operation next year but has not finalised a location.

He said: “So many countries are willing to follow me outside of Europe or the US. I’m now trying to bring this to the west and I will try my best to make this happen here in the UK.

“Why? Because I had so much good feedback from Britain, from surgeons, that I do believe that it could get real traction if we push it hard here, so it is time for you here in Britain to start discussing all the ethical implications and if you are willing to see this happen here, because if the UK says no then it will be somewhere else.

“But in Europe the UK really looks like the most promising place.”

In the system created by US firm Inventum Bioengineering Technologies, patients would take part in sessions for months before an operation.

Inventum chief executive Alexander Pavlovcik said: “In preparing the patient of Heaven (Head Anastomosis Venture) to transition into a new body, virtual reality training will be used before the surgical procedure to prevent the occurrence of unexpected psychological reactions.

“We are combining the latest advancements in virtual reality to develop the world’s first protocol for preparing the patient for bodily freedom after the transplantation procedure.”

Prof Canavero said: “Prof Amirouche has developed probably the sharpest and most precise blade in the world which will allow a clear cut of the spinal cord with a minimal impact on the nerves, a cutting system that is innovative and very inventive.

“It is another milestone on the journey to make the first human head transplant possible.”

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