- Education and Science
The First Real Two-Headed Dog
This hub contains pictures and photographs relating to a disturbing experiment involving animals. Please do not read on, or scroll down to the picture, if this topic may be disturbing to you.
This news archive photograph dated from April 15th of 1959. It shows Dr Vladimir Demikhov with his research assistant Maria Tretekova. It shows an unnamed German Shepherd dog onto which has been grafted the living head and front legs of a puppy. The conjoined dog lived for 20 days.
This picture is very disturbing. In fact I hesitated to post it. Unlike many of my other vintage photographs this is not something that happened due to spontaneous mutation or some other accidentally produced congenital condition, or even disease or misadventure. This conjoined animal was produced by deliberate surgery.
Dr Demikhov's goal was to develop the technology of transplant surgery, and it ultimately contributed to our current ability to transplant organs such as the heart and kidney. As well as the head transplants he carried out heart and lung transplants in dogs that were probably the first successful animal transplants performed.
Is such an experiment justified, given the suffering it must have caused these animals? I really do not know. Experiments conducted today must limit suffering and use a "humane endpoint" where an animal in irreversible pain is euthanized rather than being left to die. But in the 1950s things were not so closely regulated.
Dr Vladimir Demikhov
Demikhov died in 1998 in Moscow. His research included a canine heart transplant (1946), lung transplant (1947) and coronary bypass (1952). These were seen as important in the development of these same procedure for use in human medicine.