While severing someone’s head and attaching it to another person’s body sounds like something straight out of a science fiction or horror movie, some real-life scientists say they are planning to do just that – as early as next year.
Italian neuroscientist Dr. Sergio Canavero made headlines last year when he announced his plans to perform the first human head transplant in 2017. Since then, he’s recruited Chinese surgeon Dr. Xiaoping Ren to work with him, and now has found a volunteer patient for the procedure: a Russian man named Valery Spiridonov.
Spiridonov suffers from Werdnig-Hoffmann Disease, a rare and often fatal genetic disorder that breaks down muscles and kills nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that help the body move. Spiridonov is confined to a wheelchair; his limbs are shriveled and his movements essentially limited to feeding himself, typing, and controlling his wheelchair with a joystick.
In its September issue, The Atlantic profiles Spiridonov and the two scientists who hope to perform the experimental – and highly controversial – procedure.