A surgeon who plans to carry out the world's first head transplant has defended himself against accusations that it is all one big publicity stunt for the video game Metal Gear Solid.
Sergio Canavero released a sworn affidavit that he filed with police in Italy to online magazine Motherboard, which denies he has anything to do with game or Konami, the website that set the conspiracy theories flying.
The rumours began swirling after a photo was posted on a gaming forum showing how Canavero looked remarkably like one of the main characters. Others then started pointing out that there are several other links, such as that the surgeon had written a number of papers on the phenomenon of phantom pain – the name of the video game.
Canavero suggested to kotaku.co.uk that maybe the game developers had based the character on him to some extent, but that he did not know.
Speaking to Motherboard, his lawyer Stefano Ponte said: "Dr Canavero was totally unaware of the use of his image and allusions to his research into the video game."
Further to this, the affidavit said: "On 19 April 2015, I received in my email inbox an email coming from the UK from the account [redacted], containing a link which directed to the trailer of the upcoming video game Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain, produced by Konami in Japan.
"The trailer features a video with a doctor with my physical likeness and a series of very violent scenes, some computer generated (presumably, they used an authentic video of me, which was then digitized, probably obtained from one of my TED Conference talks).
"I have nothing else to add except to declare my willingness to proceed against the people responsible for the facts explained here, which the judicial authority will observe as crimes."
Meanwhile, Canavero has said he believes the head transplant will take less than an hour to perform, with the full joining process taking about a day. In the surgery, Valeri Spidonov, a 30-year-old Russian man who has Werdnig-Hoffmann disease, will have his head cooled down then removed and laced on another body.
The tissue around the neck is dissected and the blood vessels are linked using tubes. The spinal cords of each person are cut and the head is moved on to the donor body at the two ends of the spinal cord, and this is fused together.
Canavero is expected to make a further announcement about the surgery in June.