Xiaoping Ren and Sergio Canavero: Head Transplant

Update: May 2022 — It seems like the quest for a head transplant has not been shelved. Dr. Ren just co-published an interesting new paper titled: “Whole-Body/Head Transplantation: Personal Identity, Experimental Surgery, and Bioethics.” Also see his 2021 paper on who would the person be after a head transplant?

Sergio Canavero and the Quest for a Head Transplant

I have covered Italian neurosurgeon (and ex-director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group) Dr. Sergio Canavero twice before this blog. Both times via small updates on his head transplant procedure plan in my “brief items of interest” posts.

I was nevertheless suspicious that Dr. Canavero was more in it for the fame and shock value rather than for anything else. To be fair, he also does often come across as being compassionate towards people with malfunctioning bodies. I did not think that his human head transplant procedure would ever come to fruition in the near term, as he has often declared during the past few years.

Usually, I am very optimistic when it comes to medical/scientific/ technological advances, but in this case I (like numerous other people) thought that Dr. Canavero was a borderline lunatic. Albeit an entertaining one who uses bananas to explain surgical processes. I did not think that western governments would ever allow him to proceed with his experiments on humans. Even the more willing Chinese government would probably only allow it after a few more years of research.

Dr. Sergio Canavero

Head Transplant in China First?

However, it seems like there is now a decent chance that the first ever human “head transplant” procedure is on schedule and will be attempted within a year. Several days ago, Dr. Canavero gave a detailed interview to a German magazine (four pages long) that is worth a read.

As I have mentioned in the past, this procedure is technically a “full body transplant”, since a live patient with a faulty body will get a dead person’s full body as a replacement. However, I will call it by the “head transplant” phrase that is now widely used by the global media.

Originally, it had been announced that Russian Valery Spiridonov was going to be the first ever patient to ever get a head transplant. However, with the operation now scheduled to take place in China, it looks like a Chinese patient will be the first one.

Dr. Xiaoping Ren to Lead

It also seems like Dr. Xiaoping Ren (who was part of a team that performed the first ever hand transplant in the US) will now lead the surgery proceedings, with Dr. Canavero assisting. Dr. Ren became well known in 2015 after that shocking article came out. He has since conducted many more experiments (primarily on rodents), including this recent grotesque one. I hate seeing such images, but they are everywhere on the internet these days so I decided to post the link. Dr. Ren works at Harbin Medical University in China. Dr. Ren is extremely experienced, just like Dr. Canavero.

Brief Video Conference Between Dr. Canavero and Dr. Ren

My Thoughts

Even if the first ever human head transplant does occur within a year in China, I do not think that it will be a success. In a best case scenario, the human will live for a few hours like a vegetable -> Dr. Canavero will say it was a huge success because the patient lived briefly –> the global media will call it torture –> and the Chinese government could go either way (i.e., ban future procedures on humans, or allow them to continue a few more times after considering the surgery somewhat of a success and a pride for the country).

Overall, as the title of this post indicates, this procedure sounds like hell to me. If my body was disintegrating, I would rather die than go through this kind of experiment. Kudos to the patients who are volunteering for something that could potentially end up making medical science progress drastically.

Having said that, it will be absolutely ludicrous if a successful human head transplant occurs before a hair loss cure is realized.

I almost forgot to mention…Dr. Canavaro also plans to unfreeze cryogenically frozen brains and move them to bodies within three years.

If you like this kind of reading, make sure to check out my past posts on:

119 thoughts on “Xiaoping Ren and Sergio Canavero: Head Transplant”

  1. Rivertown’s website is currently down. Given the supposed “impressive” pictures they showed, I wonder whether the company is about to redesign its website, or otherwise, they are simply bowing out from their research.

  2. rivertown’s site not down, and the pictures are ridiculous
    i wouldn’t hold my breath on this one

  3. Rivertown Therapeutics is stating that their topical causes robust hairgrowth and even cases of full restoration. No pictures or data yet, so once again big claims but no evidence yet… Hopefully soon.

      1. Blatantly different lighting and head position on the guy. And a claim of total reversal of hair loss in 14 weeks?? Not even possible…

  4. On February 16th 2017, Rivertown Therapeutics’ application for a patent to cover its novel RT1640 drug for AGA was published (link below). RT1640 is composed of three drugs (Minoxidil, Cyclosporine A and a propriety compound called RT175) which, synergistically, has led to “100% of the subjects treated to date with RT1640 have responded with robust hair growth, and in several instances, complete restoration of the hair.” Fortunately, the patent describes the chemical structure of RT175, the proportions of the three drugs in RT1640, photographs and preliminary experiments. Interestingly, it also refers to using their compound with laser skin perturbation to help induce hair growth. Follica may like to get in touch with Dr Weinstein…


    1. @spanky:what will be released in a few years? minox and fin don’t work and you know it….why 5 or more years? Source? Thanks.

  5. @bob is it possible that follica is already linked with them? Maybe this is why it is taking so long cause they have to test out their new compound?

    1. I’m not able to say if Follica and Rivertown are in collaboration. I certainly hope so! As for the three drugs that make up RT1640, Rivertown Therapeutics has this to say:

      “Two of the three active agents in RT1640, cyclosporine A and Minoxidil, are FDA approved and off patent. They are known to be safe for use on the skin, and there are thousands of people-year exposures to these drugs. The third active ingredient in RT1640, is a new chemical entity (NCE) called RT175. Created by one of the RiverTown co-founders, it has been tested in over 600 humans in FDA sanctioned clinical trials. RT175 has an outstanding safety profile, with no serious adverse events associated with its use.”

      My hope is that because Minoxidil and Cyclosporine A are already FDA-approved, and RT175 has already been used in clinical trials, RT1640 will be fast tracked for approval.

  6. @newerah, try to research a little on this and other sites mate:-) As I’ve told you before. Brotzu lotion is the only thing that might be within reach. My source is the things I read on different hair loss sites and on the different company sites. Unfortunately there is nothing in phase 3. Take JAK inhibitors as an example – Aclaris is still only working on a pre clinical level with JAK for AGA which means that they havent even begun their phase testing with human participants who has male pattern baldness. Some companies are further ahead than Aclaris, but none of the “major players” that is discussed here frequently, is in phase 3. Sorry mate, but there is still a long way to go before we have a new treatment. But none the less, following ANY progress these companies make is still very exciting:-D

    1. Follica, Shiseido, Histogen, Samumed, Follicum will all release by 2019. You are doing terrible research “mate”. Go Tsuji 2020 !!

  7. So you two honestly believe that in 2019, 4 or 5 companies will release new treatments? Please enlighten me with the glorious info that made you think that:-D I want to believe….

    1. We thought the same thing for years now, we believed a number of new companies are going to save us and here we are with fin and min…and the real kicker is just like min and fin even if something new comes out there is no guarantee it will work for everyone and they may carry side effects that may render the treatment intolerable for some.

  8. Here is the response from Rivertown:

    Thanks for your interest in RT1640, once we have completed a Phase 2 trial, we will have a much better idea of time to market. We will continue to update our website with all pertinent information.

    I do give them credit for responding in about an hour but if they haven’t completed phase 2 then it’s going to be a while.

  9. The only thing that might have a chance of coming by 2019 would be follicle. SM maybe but they are going back to phase 2b again so who knows what that means. Replicel, sisheido are just companies I personally don’t believe in…I loved histogen but now I am starting to believe that company is purely just looking for investors. Tsuji looks very promising but highly doubt we can get his treatment by 2020. Hopefully there are other hidden players that will pop out of nowhere with a big surprise release :)

    Off topic..anybody here ever switch from Rogaine foam to liquid and get good regrowth only to see it shed away at 6 to 7 month mark. I’m suffering from this and it blows. Thought I got something good going. Hopefully it’s just a shed and it will grow back. It’s only happening on my right stubborn part of my hairline. Tempted to get a mini 400 fue there and call it a day.

  10. As a chemist and optimistic mpb sufferer, I really like the science and idea behind rt1640. Seems to line up with arguments about calcification, fibrosis, etc. That, seti, and brotzu (pgd3 surrogate) seem to make the most sense to me because they should hit the correct pathways while still being downstream enough to avoid systemic effects. I’m actually surprised allergan is going with oral seti in their phase iia trial.

    1. i dunno man… they said they are going to market soon but there is no date i would imagine sometime this year. it’s not a spectacular product but it’s not bad either

  11. @mjones You only need 400 grafts to solve your ‘problem?’ With the amount of time you spend on this site, one could be forgiven for assuming you’re an egg.

    1. Mitch, yes my hair loss may not be as bad as most but I’m still losing hair and it bothers me a lot just like anyone else. My hair loss is diffuse and progressing along the right side of my hair line and pushing back. The 400 fue probably will only be a temporary fix for a year then hair behind it will go. I was just curious if anyone on here regrew hair they shed from Rogaine liquid from a 2nd shed at 6 months after good initial regrowth

      1. I really think minox speeds up hairloss due to all the ros over the long term even though it helpd medium-short term. I dont use minox anymore, using minox was one of the worst mistakes…

          1. Your loss is probably just the natural progression since minox does not stop hairloss it just increases density at the beginning but your density stays on a downtrend.

            1. Hairplz, I’m on Propecia not just minoxidil. I was Rogaine foam 2.5 years prior to switching to liquid and Propecia for 14 years. I added liquid minox and it actually worked. Foam did nothing but make me lose ground . I gained density all over the first 4 months on Rogaine liquid and now back to baseline.

              1. What nw are you? How high of a dose of minox did you use. The hair that you lost due to minox…did it grow back?

                  1. I used 5% but concentration is just part of the equation he other is how much of it you use. I was loosing a lot of hair so my dorcor said to put on twice as much minox….

                    1. I think i did regain some but also think i lost a lot of hair because i dropped minox so its a double edged sword. You loose the 10% or so boost that minox gives you but i think it helps prevent more damage over the long term. At the end of the day minox does not prevent hairloss as far as we know. Minox impedes fibroblast proliferation based on studies as well. Fibroblast growth factors help manintain the papilla cell population and circulation in the scalp by expressing vegf(vascular growth factor). Thanks to me dropping minox and finding better ways to improve circulation i was able to recover partly from that hell.

                    2. Minoxidil increases 17 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase and 5 alpha-reductase activity of cultured human dermal papilla cells from balding scalp.
                      Sato T, et al. J Dermatol Sci. 1999.

                    1. I think its ok for short term but multiyear use wilk hurt your outlook by you having less growth factors to help.

                    2. Things that also increase vegf like lllt and epicatechin. I also have a diet low in saturated fat which decreases flow mediated dilation.

                    3. Oh yeah and diet rich in protein (citrulline/arginine) and nitrates (for nitric oxide)

  12. If this is a success it shows there’s a conspiracy behind these companies keeping a baldness cure away. I already struggle to believe that in our current year, with all the wondrous advances, we still cannot make some f hair grow on a head, but some scientists are trying to transplant a whole f head!

    1. @Bald30 It’s actually not that hard to believe in my opinion. Simply speaking any type of transplant has the main goals of a finding compatible donor and an then the ability to reconnect key bloody supply and nerv structures. Complex yes, but it’s the same concept for any transplant type and this is more an advance in surgical techniques than a disease cure discovery. The hair follicle can already be transplanted. But getting one to grow from stem cells is an entirely new science. Causes of hair loss are also still being better understood so reversal mechanisms would take more time. So it doesn’t actually surprise me that a head transplant might happen before a hair loss cure.

      1. What you say makes sense Jay, but for some reason most scientists are highly skeptical that this will work. Perhaps because even the rodents they have tried on are dead a few days later usually.

        1. Absolutely, and it does sound like something out of a horror movie but I think sometimes we need to challenge ourselves on what really is possible and impossible. Scientists were also once highly skeptical that the earth was round etc :). For the record, while I say it’s not that unbelievable to me, I would still bet my money on a hair loss cure before a fully functioning head transplant.

    1. this is awesome news.. I’ve enrolled into biomedical engineering just for CRISPR and IPSC becuase of stories like this

      1. Yet to be seen as I don’t think it’s clear on the ability of completely miniaturized follicles ‘waking’ up again. My thinking is if the follicles are still ‘alive’ then editing out the hair loss genes should allow them to start producing healthy hair again as whatever caused them them miniaturize would no longer affect them (DHT etc)

  13. “The RTI scientific founder, David E. Weinstein, MD, PhD reached a similar conclusion. To overcome this hurdle, he developed RT1640, which consists of three active agents formulated for twice daily application. The three drugs synergize to promote the recruitment of new hair follicles, and/or rejuvenate existing follicles that have become dormant, a normal event in AGA. 100% of the subjects treated to date with RT1640 have responded with robust hair growth, and in several instances, complete restoration of the hair. Unlike other treatments on the market, RT1640 is effective in both men and women, irrespective of age or the duration of hair loss.”

    1. Rivertown if not a scam, sounds very very interesting. However sounds to good to be true. At this day age whatever new treatment comes out should reverse total hair loss and bring us back to nw1

    1. FT: How did you discover this combination of three agents?

      DW: I remembered from my clinical training seeing kids treated with minoxidil- they had hair everywhere. The same was true of people treated with cyclosporine A- they too were hyper-hirsute. A review of the literature suggested that in spite of the exaggerated hair growth in patients taking theses drugs by mouth, minoxidil didn’t do much when applied topically to the scalp in AGA, and cyclosporine A did less. The two together had neither additive nor synergistic effects. Taking them orally was out of the question, as these are serious drugs with serious side effects. In addition to CSA and minoxidil the third drug is one I had created as a New Chemical Entity (NCE) several years ago, called RT175. Among other things, RT175 promoted the recruitment and differentiation of follicular stem cells. The three agents act on distinct pathways in hair regeneration and together, they synergize to promote the growth and maintenance of hair in men and women with androgenic alopecia. They also reanimate dormant melanocytic progenitor cells. These are the cells that add color to the hair. When the hair grows back with RT1640 treatment, it is the color that you had before it turned gray and fell out.

  14. hey Admin… I just saw this morning Follicle thought posted on Instagram just posted that Reboost A.K.A. Kelopesia just came out in Turkey. his IG name is folliclethought_com check it out tell me what you thnk. I haven’t checked his web page but i’m sure he has also posted on there as well.

    1. Yes egghead posted a link on that with photos in this post several days ago. Not sure if I buy/believe in it yet.

      1. I don’t really believe in it myself but I will try with topical fin. it’s enough that it’s from a University which gives me more faith

  15. Reboost isn’t that exciting but the story is – they contacted folliclethought and told him they were releasing soon in Turkey and shipping worldwide where you could order it online.

    I was the first person to contact Dr. Sahin about this time last year, he told me it would be out in a few months, a year passes Feb 17 they told folliclethought it should be out in a few weeks… it’s been what? 3 months?

    Reboost/Kelopesia looks weaker than Histogen it’s barrely worth mentioning – I haven’t seen any results above 3 months. Their biggest problem was shelf life which they spent the last year increasing – now they have their formula stabilized at 2 years shelf life. Their done with regulations. But still no product.. I’ll take it for you guys and take pics if it ever comes out or whatever so we don’t all have to blow our money to see what the deal is.

  16. Thank you egghead!!! Weird tha Folliclethought would IG that it has launched when there is not even a working website..ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh at least polichem is slated to finish phase 3 in September..

  17. Weird how actively Folliclethought is promoting Kelopecia without clinical data to back up its claims and would not let skeptical comments about this product be posted on the blog.

  18. Kelopecia is pure snake oil crap. I’m surprised that this day and age people still fall for these trick hair loss cures. Look at the before and after pics of the men balding….no significant change. If you have to sit there and investigate if it grew hair by staring at the picture for 20 mins then obviously the stuff doesn’t grow hair. Let’s focus on real stuff like SM, Follica, tsuji etc that are legit.

    1. While I totally agree with you, at the same time the fact that it’s from the biomedical engineering department at University calling it “snake oil” is a little much.

      Also they actually released market today,

  19. I’d be more inclined to believe Reboost was snake oil if it had of been rushed to the international market accompanied by a slick website and advertising campaign, you know, just like Follica’s. If the Turkish scammers are trying to maximise their profits then they are certainly taking a backward approach to their scheme.

    Judging by the evidence, it’s certainly safe to say that, presumably after 6 months, Reboost’s effectiveness doesn’t quite meet our expectations for aesthetic improvement. But then, the advice given on receipt of a hair transplant is that you should wait 12 months to see the full effect.

    I’m sure we will have plenty of anecdotal reports from Turkey over the coming months as to Reboost’s effectiveness. My guess is that the results won’t be groundbreaking, but that isn’t to say it is snake oil and won’t do anything.

    1. In my experience hair transplant can keep getting better for up to 15 months or more depending on he area i think vertex was the slowest and was like 18 months.

  20. If the Reboost pics are not tampered with then its really promising. Its just that everything surrounding this product seems scam’ish or atleast somewhat amatourish.

  21. I must be looking at the wrong pictures then because I don’t see any difference in the before after pics

  22. @mjones, its not a game changeing difference but there is a little something going on. Only way to find out is to try it…

  23. @admin have you seen this?

    09:42 AM EDT, 05/05/2017 (MT Newswires) — Aclaris Therapeutics (ACRS) said Friday that it has completed its phase 1 clinical trial of ATI-50001 for treatment of alopecia areata which showed that the drug was well tolerated, with a safety profile similar to placebo and no clinically significant laboratory abnormalities observed.
    Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that results in partial or complete loss of hair on the scalp and body.
    The company plans to initiate a phase 2 dose ranging trial of the drug in the second half of 2017.
    Additionally, the company said it plans to develop a new topical formulation, ATI-50002, for the treatment of alopecia areata, vitiligo and androgenetic alopecia. The company plans to submit an investigational new drug application for ATI-50002 in mid-2017, with a phase 2 trial planned in the second half of 2017.
    Price: 26.70, Change: +0.05, Percent Change: +0.19
    http://www.mtnewswires.com Copyright © 2017 MTNewswires. All rights reserved. MT Newswires does not provide investment advice. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited.

    1. Fingers crossed for Aclaris!
      The press releases elaborate more on their plan, putting AGA as a possibility without concrete dates:

      “In addition to this oral formulation of the JAK 1/3 inhibitor, Aclaris also plans to develop a topical formulation, known as ATI-50002, for the treatment of AA, vitiligo, and androgenetic alopecia (AGA). Specifically, Aclaris plans to:
      1. Initiate a Phase 2 dose ranging trial with ATI-50001 for the treatment of alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis in the second half of 2017;
      2. Submit an Investigational New Drug application (IND) for ATI-50002 for the treatment of patchy AA in mid-2017;
      3. Initiate a Phase 2 dose ranging trial of ATI-50002 for the treatment of patchy AA in the second half of 2017; and
      4. Initiate a Phase 2 trial of ATI-50002 for the treatment of vitiligo in the second half of 2017. ”

      The do mention AGA when reporting further on their exclusive licenses.
      Maybe they still need to figure out the exact compounds and delivery methods before announcing trial dates.

      Let us wish the team of Aclaris best of success!

    2. Yes I always get their emails, but never get excited since they are not starting their AGA trials as yet.

  24. Good news! Actually this treatment is the first of many (Replicel, Histogen, Breezula … among others). Anyway, I think Fidia Pharmaceutical should hurry and give some news. (Fidia and other companies) evidently…Just saying.

    1. reboost is like woman beauty creams. Is the same….. But for the hair! :) Just wacth the pictures.

    2. I’m going on topical fin on the 17th ordering Kelo as soon as it comes out. I get bad sides on minox and fin literally I’ve been on NOTHING since 2013. I’m greatful to have these two alternatives

  25. will rebbost be available from their website in Turkey or will we have to go through a 3rd party Kane type character who buys it so he can ten sell for profit?

  26. guys I am in Turkey and I am seriously begging you not to try.. Do not trust it because of university. nowadays you can see universities popping up from every corner in turkey. these are all 0-10years old universities.
    Plus there is no hype around this product. It feels like snake oil nothing more.
    Again I am begging you not to buy… All you have to do is just wait 3-6months and see it yourself in turkish forums people starting blaming the product. just wait until then

    1. We wish you will give us update about turkish forums reviews, because you are turkish and know the turkish language

    2. I saw those photos on Follicle Thought and definately got suspicious especially how they had to move the camera ever so slightly to the right in the after photo casting more of a shadow over the crown hmmmmmm….

    1. Seems that these scientists have managed to comprehend the root cause of both hairloss and grey hair.

      Hope that this research will focus on a proper cure or treatment, and not simply translate into further scientific literature and discussions.

      Time for a cure.

    2. Thanks baldings. FYI — Lu Le was one of the main presenters at the recent conference I mentioned in the last post:


      State-of-the-Art Plenary Lecture II 5:30 pm – 6:00 pm
      Identification of Hair Shaft Oregon Ballroom 201-202
      Progenitors that Create a Niche for
      Hair Pigmentation and Graying
      Lu Le, MD/PhD

  27. I’m not sure what people actually read and take in. whatever your view on the product, Follicle Thought states that it was only available through the university at the moment and there is supposed to be further dispensing for international community in the near future. I myself am not sold however would be willing to give it a try seeing as nothing else has come out in such a long time.

  28. EGR2 (KROX20) needed for hair growth.
    SCF (Stem Cell Factor) needed for hair colour.


    Now it’s Dr Lu Le at UT Southwestern Medical Centre looking for a cancer cure against tumors, who finds KROX20 and SCF which is needed for hair and pigment.

    This, while just 2 weeks ago, Dr. Peter de Keizer at Erasmus Medical Centre looking for a brain tumor cure, found FOXO4-DRI Proxofim which is needed for senescent cell destruction and hair growth.


    Anyone who still wants to state that anti-cancer (tumor) drugs and future anti-hairloss drugs are not related to each other … (?)

    1. Wait….they’ve discovered the cell directly responsible for hair growth ?! Bollocks to Follica, Kelopecia, Follicum and all the rest of the crap we’ve been promised. This is it…This is absolutely huge, why aren’t we making a bigger deal out of this?!

      And I agree that it suggests there is a link but I think the link with cancer and hair loss drugs will extend more to the underlying pathologies rather than a direct linkage. I’ve said it for a while (And Danny Roddy wrote a hell of a lot about it too) this is all about energy metabolism….cancer, hair etc….

      1. Of course you are right, I mean that the pathways in hair growth and the pathways in cancer might have a lot in common.

        Some scientists probably already figured out how AGA patients could get their hair back, however as always, safety is first priority.

        Also the vehicle to deliver the drugs is important for effectiveness and minimal side effects.

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