sergio canavero
Head transplant surgeon Sergio Canavero Getty Images

Sergio Canavero - the Italian surgeon who has promised to carry out a human head transplant – claims that his team at Harbin Medical University in China has successfully carried out the procedure on a human corpse.

The controversial surgeon has earned himself fame and notoriety and has even signed up his first patient, Valery Spiridinov, a Russian man with a genetic muscle-wasting disease, who has agreed to have his head frozen and grafted onto a new donor body.

"The first human transplant on human cadavers has been done," Canavero told a conference in Vienna, according to The Telegraph. "A full head-swap between brain dead organ donors is the next stage. And that is the final step for the formal head transplant for a medical condition which is imminent."

While the surgeon did not provide proof for his claims he said, "the paper will be released in a few days. Everyone said it was impossible. But the surgery was successful."

He said the successful surgery on the corpse demonstrated that effectiveness of his newly developed techniques - which involve reconnecting the spinal cord, nerves and blood vessels using a special compound which promote tissue healing. The trial surgery on the cadaver also showed that the surgery could be completed within the team's 18-hour target, he said.

Previously, Canavero has claimed that he has successfully carried out head transplants on rats and monkeys.

However, he has faced much criticism from the scientific community with some warning that even in the unlikely event the procedure was successful, the patient could experience unprecedented levels of insanity and suffering as the head adapts to its new body.

Canavero says his techniques may be the only hope for paralysed people with no other treatment options.