An Italian neuroscientist is making headlines after announcing plans to next year perform the world’s first head transplant on a Russian man who has volunteered for the controversial operation.
Valery Spiridonov, 31, has agreed to allow Dr. Sergio Canavero, Chinese surgeon Dr. Xiaoping Ren and a team of about 80 other doctors to decapitate him and place his head on a donor body. Though Ren has reportedly performed the surgery, successfully, on a mouse and a monkey, it would be a first for the human race.
Much has been written about Canavero, who first announced his plans last year. But who is Spiridonov? Here are five things to know about the man willing to go under the knife.
Spiridonov works from his home in Vladimir, about 120 miles east of Moscow, running an educational software business, according to a story in the September issue of the Atlantic.
Spiridonov is terminally ill. He is bound to a wheelchair by Werdnig-Hoffmann disease, a genetic disorder that causes muscles to waste away and motor neurons to die. The illness has limited his movements to feeding himself, typing and steering his wheelchair with a joystick.
Spiridonov has already beaten the odds. Doctors have told him that he should have died of the disease years ago, according to the Atlantic’s profile.
Spiridonov has come up with a novel way to help fund the surgery, estimated to cost between $10 million and $100 million. He has begun selling hats, T-shirts, mugs and iPhone covers, all with an image of his head on a new body, online as a way to raise funds for the experiment.
Spiridonov is not the only person who has volunteered to be the first potentially-successful head transplant patient. Nearly a dozen others, including a man whose body is full of tumors, have approached the doctors asking to go first, the Atlantic reported.
To learn more about the controversial and groundbreaking surgery planned to save Spiridonov’s life, read the Atlantic’s profile.