Vladimir Demikhov’s illustrious career provided many interesting advances in the Russian medical science field. In 1937, at the young age of 21, Demikhov designed the first ever cardiac-assist device, a pump mechanism which was capable of taking over a heart’s cardiac function for a full five and a half hours. In 1946, Demikhov became the first to perform a heart transplant on a dog. Remarkably, the dog survived for five months after the operation. In subsequent years, Demikhov was able to transplant a lung and perform a cardiovascular bypass – all using dogs for patients. For a while, his work was renowned and respected in the medical community. Dr. Alexis Carrel, an American surgeon and experimental biologist who won a 1912 Nobel Prize, said that Dr. Demikhov “had the biggest early impact on the field of heart and lung transplantation” of any person in history. But today, Demikhov is scarcely remembered for anything other than his more bizarre works of science – the creation of living, breathing two-headed dogs.
Demikhov’s slide into bizarre dog head transplant experiments began by accident. Demikhov had finished a heart transplant experiment on a dog that had been brought to him following an accident. Seeing that the head of the dog was still in good shape, on a whim he decided to use it for another experiment. Could he keep just the head of the animal alive? Using his keen engineering skills, Demikhov developed a means to keep a dog head “alive” by pumping oxygen rich blood (and other nutrients) into the decapitated head to feed the animal’s brain. The experiment was mildly successful and sparked a new interest in Demikhov.
Over time, Demikhov’s experiments grew bolder and bolder. His later experiments, conducted during the mid to late 1950s, effectively transplanted entire canine upper bodies (including front legs and head) onto other dogs. The second transplanted head was able to see, drink water, and eat while the original beast remained conscious and stable. Many of the animals lived for several months even though the heavy weight and cardiovascular requirements of the transplanted second head were difficult to support for the already weakened subject. In many cases, the poor beast could barely raise its head from the floor as the “second head” scavenged its life source.
A few years into his work, a review committee of the Soviet Ministry of Health deemed Demikhov’s work to be unethical, and he was instructed to stop his bizarre research projects. Despite the demand, Demikhov continued work on his experiments, thus earning the persona of a “mad scientist” intent on completing his bizarre ambitions despite what the rest of the world thought about it. Ostracized by the medical community, he died in 1998 at the age of 82 years old, anonymous and veritably unknown, and living in poverty.
Below are several pictures taken from Vladimir Demikhov’s bizarre scientific experiments.
Below is a video showing one of the bizarre experiments of Vladimir Demikhov. Shown in the video are the two dogs before the operation, Demikhov performing operations, and the puppy’s head lapping up water proving that it was still “alive”.
And here is an early video showing an attempt to keep a decapitated dog head alive.