Rare Diseases

Russian volunteer for world’s first head transplant seeking funds to meet surgeon

Valery Spiridonov who has put himself forward to have the world's first head transplant is going to meet the surgeon.

Valery Spiridonov who has put himself forward to have the world's first head transplant is going to meet the surgeon.  (CEN)

A Russian man who has agreed to undergo the world’s first head transplant is raising funds for a trip to America so he can meet the Italian surgeon who will perform the operation, Central European News (CEN) reported.

Valery Spiridonov, 30, a computer programmer who suffers from Werdnig-Hoffman, a rare genetic disorder that causes his muscles to deteriorate, only has one leg and is confined to a wheelchair, CEN reported.

Spiridonov is appealing to Russian President Vladimir Putin and others to help fund the research and operation, which he hopes will be performed in 2017. More immediately, he hopes to raise funds to travel to the U.S. so he can meet Sergio Canavero, the surgeon who will operate, next Thursday in New York, according to the report.

“This is ground breaking research and we need a lot of funding. If I can get the right body, I will look after it and nourish it,” Spiridonov told CEN.  “This could transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Where there is an opportunity there is hope,” he said.

The procedure is expected to take 36 hours, and has received both praise and backlash.

“I would not wish this one anyone. I would not allow anyone to do it to me, as there are a lot of things worse than death,” Dr. Hunt Batjer, president-elect of the American Association for Neurological Surgerons said, according to CEN. 

Still,Spiridonov said he refuses to change his mind.

“If I don’t try this out, my fate will be very sad. With every year my situation is getting worse,” he told CEN. “My decision is final, and I do not plan to change my mind.”

Canavero, who is still seeking funding for the project, is due to address the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons' 39th Annual Conference in Annapolis, Maryland, in June.