Valery Spiridonov, 31, who suffers from a muscle-wasting disease, was due to undergo world’s first operation to attach his head to a new body
Sergio Canavero was due to perform surgery, but now has a new patient in China
Mr Spiridonov, who spent years on the project, says ‘a weight lifted off my chest’
Russian now says he will seek conventional surgery to improve his condition
The man who volunteered to be a human guinea pig by undertaking the world’s first head transplant this year has admitted his dream will never happen.
Severely handicapped Russian Valery Spiridonov, 31, now accepts his hopes of his head being grafted onto a new healthy body are over.
Controversial pioneering neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero – dubbed Dr Frankenstein – has vowed to undertake the first such transplant in China with an as yet unnamed local patient undergoing the operation.
As preparation the Turin-based medic was recently part of a team that attached a new head to a rat.
But Spiridonov – who worked with Professor Canavero for two years and became the human face of hopes for head transplant surgery – acknowledged he had now lost his hopes a new body free from disabilities.
He suffers from Werdnig-Hoffman disease, a form of spinal muscular atrophy, and has already defied predictions of poor life expectancy.
Italian surgeon Sergio Canavero, who worked with Mr Spiridonov for two years on the project, has now found a new patient in China
‘Given that I cannot rely on my Italian colleague, I have to take my health into my own hands,’ he said in his first comment on Dr Canavero’s decision to work with a Chinese patient instead.
The Russian will now seek new conventional spinal surgery to improve his life, rather than an experimental operation which medical experts warned had a high risk of death.
‘Luckily, there is quite a well-tested surgery for cases like mine when a steel implant is used to support a spine in straight position,’ said Spiridonov.
‘There are several places in Russia where they carry out such surgery. It eases breathing and helps move in public transport, and just sit down.
‘The surgery will not bring strong muscles back and won’t let me walk, but it will radically improve the quality of my life.’
He hopes to use crowdfunding to raise the estimated £32,000 he will need for this operation compared with the £12 million expected head transplant cost.
Spiridonov had earlier argued that it was important people stepped forward who were ready to undertake a new kind of surgery that could revolutionise human life.
He attended a major medical conference with Dr Canavero.
The Russian previously said: ‘If you want something to be done, you need to participate in it.
‘I do understand the risks of such surgery. They are multiple.’
Now he says: ‘Do I feel offended? No I am not.
‘I am highly grateful to Canavero. Thanks to our joint efforts, a lot is changing for the better, and for me too.’
He admitted: ‘I feel a weight lifted off my chest. I never had a vain motive to become the first one.
‘I gave two years of my life to this project. I will be glad to see it happening (with someone else).’
He had hoped a head transplant would lead to him have ‘an independent life similar to other people’ but acknowledged that as a result of Dr Canavero decision to work in China, his future would be as a handicapped person.
‘But I am already used to such a life’.