London, Apr 9: A 30-year-old Russian computer scientist with a rare, genetic muscle wasting disease is set to become the first person in the world to have his head transplanted onto a healthy donor body.
Valery Spiridonov, from Vladimir, has approached Italian surgeon Dr Sergio Canavero who recently claimed to have developed a technique that would allow the world's first human head transplant to take place within the next two years.
Spiridonov volunteered for the radical procedure, which would see his head re-attached to a healthy donor body. "My decision is final and I do not plan to change my mind," said Spiridonov, who is battling the rare genetic Werdnig-Hoffman muscle wasting disease.
Spiridonov admitted that he is afraid but said he did not have many choices. "If I don't try this chance my fate will be very sad. With every year my state is getting worse," he was quoted as saying by 'express.co.uk'. Spiridonov has talked to Canavero but the doctor has not reviewed the man's medical records.
According to CNN, Canavero claims he has a stack of emails and letters from people who want this procedure. Many of them are transsexuals who want a new body. But he insists the first patients will be people who are suffering from a muscle wasting disease.
Canavero also requires a major academic medical center to host this endeavour and he has his eyes set on the US. He is due to present his plan to the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopedic Surgeons, or AANOS, at its annual conference in June.
If Canavero does not get the support he needs in the US, he will look to China and his timeline will slide by a year, CNN reported. Canavero has already selected some of the nurses and doctors he needs to put together a staff of 150 that will carry out the 36-hour operation.
The procedure has some medical precedent as it was recently reported that Chinese scientists had carried out a head transplant on a mouse. In 1970, a team led by Robert White at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, transplanted the head of one monkey onto the body of another.
They didn't attempt to join the spinal cords, so the monkey was paralysed but able to breathe with assistance. It died nine days later. Canavero believes advances in science and medicine since then have eliminated the problems White faced.