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First Human Head Transplant Planned for 2017

FILE - Valery Spiridonov, who has volunteered to be the first person to undergo a head transplant, attends a news conference in Vladimir, Russia, June 25, 2015.

Many prominent surgeons think the idea is crazy and will not work, but Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero says he still plans to attempt the first human head transplant late next year.

He even has a volunteer, 31-year-old Russian software development manager Valery Spiridonov, who suffers from a debilitating muscle-wasting disease.

Canavero's project does have supporters in the medical community, including Dr. Michael Sarr, professor emeritus of surgery at the Mayo Clinic. He said the procedure is very risky, but experiments show that reconnected spinal cord nerves may actually function.

During the procedure, estimated to last about 36 hours, Spiridonov’s head will be cooled to around 12 degrees Celsius, cut from his body and, as quickly as possible, connected to a donated body of a brain-dead person.

Canavero will be assisted by a team of 100 surgeons and other medical staff, including some who have experience in head transplants on animals.

After surgery, Spiridonov will be kept in an artificially-induced coma for 3 to 4 weeks while doctors stimulate his spinal cord nerves to reconnect and start functioning.

Transplants of various organs are now routinely done on human patients in many parts of the world, but all attempts at head transplants done on monkeys quickly resulted in death. However, Canavero predicts that Spiridonov will not only live with his new body, but be able to walk within a year of the operation.