A terminally ill man could become the first to undergo a human head transplant as early as next year. Valery Spiridonov, 31, suffers from Werdnig-Hoffman’s disease – a rare form of spinal muscular atrophy that causes muscle degeneration, as well as problems chewing, swallowing and breathing.
Now he has volunteered for the groundbreaking procedure, which will be carried out by neurosurgeons in China and led by Italian doctor Dr Sergio Canavero.Valery told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that although the procedure is incredibly risky, he was willing to ‘give it a go’ to try and improve his quality of life and contribute to a potential medical breakthrough.My current condition is pretty heavy,’ he continued. ‘I cannot take care of myself, I cannot walk, I need constant assistance. My motivation is about improving my life conditions and to get to the stage where I will be able to take care of myself and be independent of other people.’
The operation, which will cost £10million and take 150 medical staff 36 hours to complete, has never been attempted on a human before. Scientists have attempted the procedure on animals, but with limited success.
How will the operation be carried out?
- First the head will be frozen to temperatures below -15C to stop brain cells from dying
- Then the neck will be cut, and tubes connecting the key arteries and veins will be fitted
- The next, and most challenging step will be to cut the spinal cord. The surgeon will use a fine blade made from diamond in order to minimise the damage
- The donor body’s head will then be removed and the spinal cords will be fused together with a form of glue
- As quickly as possible, the remaining muscles, veins and organs – such as the oesophagus – will be fused together
- Plastic surgeons will then stitch the skin together
- After the procedure, the patient will be kept in an induced coma for three to four weeks so that everything is able to heal – drugs will also be administered to stop the body rejecting the head