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20 Interesting Vladimir Petrovich Demikhov Facts

by Sankalan Baidya
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If you were not satiated by the severed dog head experiment of Sergei S. Bryukhonenko or his dead dog ressurection experiment, here is another one – a surgically created two-headed dog! Yes you just read it correctly and you are in no way in middle of a horror dream. Yet another Soviet scientist by the name of Vladimir Petrovich Demikhov was the man behind the creation, which some may consider utterly insane and inhumane. Nonetheless, he was the organ transplant pioneer and even head transplants. Let us learn 20 interesting Vladimir Petrovich Demikhov facts and find out what he did for humanity and how he created the two-headed dog.

Interesting Vladimir Petrovich Demikhov Facts: 1- 10

1. Born in Moscow on July 18, 1916, Vladimir Petrovich Demikhov read a letter in 1936 from Ivan P. Pavlov – a Russian Noble Prize winner. The letter titled “A Letter to Scientific Youth’ was actually intented to inspire young Russian students to puruse science even if the circumstances were gravely unfavorable.

2. Demikhov was very inspired by the letter and decided to carry on with his scientific pursuits despite living in the era of Stalin’s Great Purge.

3. With absolutely zero support for his work, Demikhov had to carry out his experiments during evenings or during the weekends. His interest was in organ transplant and on 30th June, 1946, he successfully pulled the first heart-lung transplant in a dog. The dog survived for 9 hours and 26 minutes.

4. A few months later in October 1946, he ended up with another successful similar transplant in another dog. This time, the dog managed to survive an additional 5 days.

5. While working on organ transplant, Vladimir Petrovich Demikhov had to connect and reconnect blood vessels for more than 700 times. During this phase, he learned how the vessels surrounding a heart react. Eventually on 29th July, 1953 he performed the first ever successful coronary artery bypass on an animal

6. The most insane of his nature-defying experiment was that of the creation of a two-headed dog during 1950s. This particular experiment inspired Dr. Robert White who then successfully conducted head transplants in monkeys.

7. In order to surgically create the two-headed dog, Demikhov used a small dog named Shavka and a bigger dog picked up from the streets. Demikhov named the bigger dog as Brodyaga.

8. In the experiment, Shavka’s (the small dog) head along with forepaws were grafted onto to Brodyaga’s back.

9. This operation involved three stages. The first stage was that of making an incision on the base of Brodyaga’s neck exposing a part of the spinal column, the aorta and the jugular vein. Once that was done, two holes were drilled into the bony part and two plastic string – a red one and a white one – were threaded through the two holes. This took precisely minutes to accomplish.

10. Shavka – the smaller dog was operated. After induced unconciousness, her head and torso were wrapped in a towel exposing only the shaved area in the middle.

Interesting Vladimir Petrovich Demikhov Facts: 11- 20

11. Limp Shavka was placed on operating table beside Brodyaga. Demikhov and his assistant doctor Goriainov carefully made incision on the shaven part and rolled back the skin of Shavka. Then the two of them started using the scalpel, threads and needle, gradually exposing small blood veins and tying a tight knot around each one of them, gradually moving inward towards Shavka’s vitals.

12. Eventually, Demikhov severed the spinal column of Shavka and separated the head and forepaws from rest of the body with the heart and lungs remaining intact in the upper half of the body of Shavka.

13. The final stage was that of grafting Shavka’s half body to that of Brodyaga. The main vessels of Shavka’s body were carefully connected to corresponding vessels of Brodyaga’s body and the operation was successful.

14. Post operation, the new two-headed dog survived for only 4 days. However, the two heads had separate consciousness and both of them reacted to stimuli. It was during this operation Demikhov allowed a reporter and a photographer to become the first-hand witness of the operation.

15. Demikhov conducted this experiment for another 24 times and in 1968, he transplanted a puppy’s head on the back of another dog. This new creature however managed to survive longer and lived for 38 days. This was his final crazy operation creating a two-headed dog. After the creature’s death, the body was stuffed. The stuffed creature was handed over to Riga’s Museum of History of Medicine in 1988 where it is preserved in a glass box.

16. The term “transplantology” was actually coined by Vladimir Petrovich Demikhov and his monograph titled “Experimental transplantation of vital organs” was published in 1962 in Madrid and New York.

17. It was this monograph that earned him doctoral degree in 1960 and it became the first ever monograph on transplantology in entire world. Interesting, it also remained as the only monograph on transplantation of tissues and organs for a very long time.

18. The monograph was originally written in Russian language but it was then translated into English in 1962 after which it was published.

19. Vladimir Petrovich Demikhov was considered as teacher by Christiaan Barnard who was the first man to perform world’s first human heart transplant operation.

20. In 1998 Demikhov died in obscurity but shortly before his demise, he was awarded Order of Merit for the Fatherland, 3rd Class. Demikhov also received USSR State Prize.

Source: 1, 2, 3

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