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Plans for world's first head transplant

Press AssociationPress Association 19/11/2016

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

Professor Sergio Canavero says 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 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.

"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," Prof Canavero said.

"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.

"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," he said.

The procedure for cutting the spinal cord is said to be so delicate with the need to avoid nerves that a knife that can control cuts to a micrometre (one millionth of a metre) has been developed by Farid Amirouche at the University of Illinois.

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