Operation Smile doctors surgery
A Russian man is set to be the first person to undergo a complete head transplant Kham/Reuters

A Russian man with a rare genetic muscle-wasting disorder is set to become the first person to undergo a head transplant after volunteering for the risky procedure.

Valery Spiridonov, 30, has put himself forward to be the first to undergo the procedure which involves removing the head of a patient and attaching it to a healthy body.

The operation, which could be conducted as soon as next year, will be performed by controversial surgeon Dr Sergio Canavero, who claims that all the necessary techniques already exist to perform the transplant, according to the Daily Mail.

Spiridonav, a computer scientist from Russia, has the rare and fatal genetic Werdnig-Hoffman muscle wasting disease. He told the Daily Mail that he wanted the chance of a new body before he dies.

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

"I do understand the risks of such surgery. I'm afraid that I wouldn't live long enough to see it happen to someone else," he added.

Dog head transplant Russia
The scientist Vladimir Demikhov carried out transplants of dogs' heads in the Soviet-controlled German Democratic Republic in 1959.Bundesarchiv

Head swap

The 36-hour operation involves severing both the donor and patient's heads from their spinal cord at the same time, using an ultra-sharp blade to give a clean cut, according to the Daily Mail.

The head of the patient would then be placed on the body of the donor using polyethylene glycol, a glue-like substance, to fuse the two ends of the spinal cord together.

The muscles and blood supply would be stitched together, before the patient is put into a coma for four weeks to stop them from moving while the head and body heal.

When the patient awakens, they should be able to move their new body, feel their face and even speak with their same voice.

Powerful immunosuppressant drugs should stop the new body from being rejected.

Transplant is 'worse than death'

Critics have dismissed Canavero accusing him of simplifying the difficulties involved in reattaching a spinal cord, according to CNN.

"Their bodies would end up being overwhelmed with different pathways and chemistry than they are used to and they would go crazy," said Arthur Caplan of New York University to CNN.

Dr Hunt Batjer, president-elect of the American Association for Neurological Surgeons, told CNN: "I would not wish this on anyone. I would not allow anyone to do it to me as there are a lot of things worse than death."

In 1970 a team led by Robert White became the first to transplant the head of one monkey onto the body of another at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio.

The animal was unable to move because the spinal cord was not connected and lived for nine days, until its immune system rejected the head.

Although few head transplants have been carried out since, many of the surgical procedures involved have progressed, according to the New Scientist.

If Canavero is successful, his procedure could give new hope to people who are paralysed or suffer from disabilties.

Canavero outlined the possibilities of head transplants at a TEDxLimassol event.