A 30-year-old man suffering from a terminal muscle-wasting disease hopes to be the world’s first recipient of a head transplant. Valery Spiridinov says he wants Italian neurosurgeon Dr Sergio Canavero to perform the risky, controversial operation because his condition is so dire.
The surgery would see Spiridinov’s head removed from his body and attached to a healthy body from a brain dead donor.
Valery Spiridinov suffers from a rare muscle wasting disease Spiridinov has Werdnig-Hoffman disease, a rare genetic condition which stops his muscles growing, meaning they cannot support his adult skeleton. He told the Mail Online: “Am I afraid? Yes of course I am. But it is not just very scary, but also very interesting. “But you have to understand that I don’t really have many choices. If I don’t try this chance my fate will be very sad. With every year my state is getting worse.”
Dr Sergio Canavero hopes to perform the operation within the next two years. He proposes that after severing the head from the body via a clean cut to the spinal column, it would be attached to a living donor body. Once the major nerves and arteries have been rejoined, the spinal column would be injected with polyethylene glyco, a substance that encourages the fat in cell membranes to join. The patient would then be placed into an induced coma for several weeks while electrodes would be used to stimulate new nerve connections between the head and the body. The recipient would be able to speak with the same voice claims Dr Canavero, adding with physiotherapy they would be able to walk within a year. Dr Canavero and Spiridinov have not yet met and have only communicated via Skype thus far, but they have reportedly been discussing the operation for two years.
Spiridinov says the pair have not yet agreed on a date but that pending ongoing studies, it could be as soon as 2016. Spiridinov told RT: “This technology is similar to the first man to walk in space. This is because in the future it will help thousands of people who are in an even more deplorable state than I am.” Dr Canavero has not yet secured funding for the 150-strong medical team he would require for the £7.5m operation.
Despite Spiridinov’s optimism much of the medical profession believe the controversial procedure is doomed. Dr Hunt Batjer, president elect of the American Association for Neurological Surgeons, told CNN: “I would not wish this on anyone. I would not allow anyone to do it for me as there are a lot of things worse than death.” Head transplants have been carried out on dogs, monkeys and mice, all with varying degrees of success.
In 1971 a Dr Robert White transplanted the head of one monkey onto the body of another.
The animal only lived for eight days after the body rejected the new head, leaving the monkey unable to breath and move.