sergio canavero
Dr. Sergio Canavero will explain the procedure for the controversial head transplant.IBTimes UK

A Russian man, who is set to undergo the world's first head transplant, will today (12 June) meet the surgeon who will perform the operation.

Valery Spiridonov, who suffers from a muscle wasting disease, will learn more about the complex procedure from Italian neurosurgeon Dr. Sergio Canavero, who will be speaking in detail about the transplant at a major medical conference at the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons in Annapolis, Maryland.

Dr Canavero intends to transplant Mr Spiridonov's head onto the body of a healthy donor. The transplant is planned to take place as soon as 2017.

In an interview with the Daily Mail before he left Moscow, Mr Spiridonov said that he intends to go ahead with the surgery, as long as there is a high expectation for a successful outcome.

"I am not going crazy here and rushing to cut off my head, believe me," he said. "The surgery will take place only when all believe that the success is 99% possible. I do hope that my trip and my participation in this conference will help to push the idea of this surgery, to persuade the medical world and to make sure we have support from the scientific community."

Spiridonav, a computer scientist, has the rare and fatal genetic Werdnig-Hoffman muscle wasting disease. He explained 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.

Dr Canavero earlier outlined his strategy for the operation. In the scientific journal Surgical Neurology International he explained that once Mr Spiridonov's head is removed from its old blood supply he will cool it with ice to help the brain survive.

The head will be reattached to the donor body in stages. He will then attempt to fuse the spinal cord, which is the biggest challenge in the procedure and has never been achieved before.

The two ends of the spinal cord will be drenched in a chemical called polyethylene glycol, which has been shown to prompt the growth of spinal cord nerves in animals. Whether this is enough to restore motor function between a severed head and a new body is a point of contention. The blood vessels and muscles would then be stitched into place.

Following the head transplant, Mr Spiridonov would be placed in an induced coma for 3-4 weeks to immobilise his head. If the transplant is successful, Canavero believes the patient who has received the head transplant would be able to move and feel their face and would speak with their own voice. Dr Canavero believes Mr Spiridonov should be able to walk within a year.

Before performing the controversial surgery he will test the technique on brain-dead organ donors.

The proposed head transplant has been condemned by many medical experts and surgeons, who were reported to be highly sceptical about the procedure and have described a head transplant as potentially " worse than death." However, while he recognises he may struggle to win ethical approval from the medical communityto carry out the operation, Dr. Canavero believes the transplant is technically possible.

"The real stumbling block is the ethics," Canavero said. "Should this surgery be done at all? There are obviously going to be many people who disagree with it."

If Canavero is successful, his procedure could give new hope to people who are paralysed or suffer from disabilities and could even be the first step in achieving immortality: "We are one step closer to extend life indefinitely because when I will be able to give a new body to an 80-year-old they could live for other 40 years".

He claims that if he is able to perfect the technique it will have "unimaginable consequences" and will "forever change the story of humanity".