Belfast Telegraph

Sergio Canavero head transplant: Russian man to undergo pioneering and controversial surgery

Italian doctor has drawn criticism from the medical community for his idea

The first man set to undergo a head transplant has been revealed, saying that he finds the controversial surgery “very scary, but also very interesting”.

Valery Spiridinov is set to be the first person to undergo the operation. It will be carried out by controversial Italian doctor Sergio Canavero, whose optimistic plans have mostly been met with scepticism.

But Spiridonov — who has the rare genetic Werdnig-Hoffman disease, which gradually wastes away muscles — says that he is willing to undergo the risky procedure to give himself a chance at living in a healthy body.

“Am I afraid? Yes, of course I am. But it is not just very scary, but also very interesting,” Spiridonov, speaking from his house in the Russian town of Vladimir about 120 miles from Moscow, told MailOnline.

“But you have to understand that I don't really have many choices,” he said. “If I don't try this chance my fate will be very sad. With every year my state is getting worse.”

Spiridinov said that he has spoken with Dr Canavaro over Skype but they are yet to meet. The Russian man was chosen from a number of people that emailed and wrote to Canavaro to ask to undergo the procedure, he said.

Canavaro raised scepticism earlier this year when he said that he would be able to carry out the procedure within two years.  Other medical experts called the procedure unlikely, and rare, as well as highlighting the fact that it would never be used for those that simply want to replace an ailing body. Some have even compared Canavaro to Frankenstein.

The head transplant is set to work by taking the head off a person suffering from a wasting or degenerative disease, and transplanting it onto the body of someone who is braindead but still has a functioning body. It would be akin to the process of moving organs into a body — but would rely on the donor’s family giving away the entire body, rather than just parts of it.

The procedure was carried out on a monkey in 1970. But surgeons didn’t transplant the spinal cord, so the monkey could not move, and it lived for only nine days and died when the head was rejected by the body’s immune system.

It has never been done on a human, but Canavaro claims that all the necessary science and technology is now in place. “I think we are now at a point when the technical aspects are all feasible,” Canavaro has said.

Source: Independent

Belfast Telegraph Digital