Experiments in the Revival of Organisms

Experiments in the Revival of Organisms (Russian: О́пыты по оживле́нию органи́зма) is a 1940 documentary film directed by David Yashin [ru] that purports to document Soviet research into the resuscitation of clinically dead organisms. The English version of the film begins with British scientist J. B. S. Haldane giving an introduction.

Experiments in the Revival of Organisms
Frame from the film showing the dog's head attached to Brukhonenko's autojektor
Directed byDavid Yashin [ru]
Written bySergei Brukhonenko
Sergei Brukhonenko
Narrated byJ. B. S. Haldane (English)
CinematographyYekaterina Kashina
Animation byAlexander Prozorov
Release date
Running time
19 minutes (Russian)
20 minutes (English)
CountrySoviet Union
  • Russian
  • English

The operations in the film, as well as the design of the heart-lung machine demonstrated in it, the autojektor, were done by Sergei Brukhonenko, whose work is said to have led to the first operations on heart valves. While the experiments shown are generally considered to have taken place, the legitimacy of the film itself is controversial.

Synopsis edit

Full English version of the film

The film depicts and discusses a series of medical experiments. The English version of the film begins with British scientist J. B. S. Haldane appearing and discussing how he has personally seen the procedures carried out in the film at an all-Russian physiological congress.[1] The Russian version lacks this explanation.[2]

The experiments start with a heart of a canine, which is shown being isolated from a body; four tubes are then connected to the organ. Using an apparatus to supply it with blood, the heart beats in the same manner as if it were in a living organism. The film then shows a lung in a tray, which is operated by bellows that oxygenate the blood.[3]

Following the lung scene, the audience is then shown the autojektor, a heart-lung machine, composed of a pair of linear diaphragm pumps, venous and arterial, exchanging oxygen with a water reservoir. It is then seen supplying a dog's head with oxygenated blood. The head is presented with external stimuli, which it responds to. Finally, a dog is brought to clinical death (depicted primarily through an animated diagram of lung and heart activity) by draining the blood from its body, triggering cardiac arrest.[3][4]

It is then left for ten minutes and connected to the heart-lung machine, which gradually returns the blood into the animal's circulation. After several minutes, the heart fibrillates, then restarts a normal rhythm. Respiration likewise resumes and the machine is disconnected. Over the ensuing ten days, the dog recovers from the procedure and continues living a healthy life.[3][4] According to the film, several dogs were brought back to life using this method, including one which is an offspring of parents who were both also resuscitated.[5]

Production edit

A patent diagram showing the setup of the procedure

In 1925, Sergei Brukhonenko demonstrated the autojektor to the Second Congress of Russian Pathologists in Moscow, where the device kept a dog's head alive for an hour and 40 minutes, while it displayed various reflexes. The next year he presented further research to the Second Congress of Soviet Physiologists in Leningrad.[6]

The film was shot at the Institute of Experimental Physiology and Therapy in Moscow, and was directed by David Yashin [ru].[7][8] The operations in the film are credited to Brukhonenko and Boris Levinskovsky.[5] The film was initially produced for Russian audiences using a script written by Brukhonenko.[1]

It was one of three Soviet documentary films that Haldane was requested to supply commentary for in July 1942; the originally proposed English title was Experiments in Bringing the Dead to Life. It is unclear what happened to the other two films.[1]

Legacy edit

The film was shown in London towards the end of 1942, and then to an audience of a thousand US scientists the next year in New York,[1] at the Congress of American-Soviet Friendship.[9][10] The audience considered that the film "might move many supposed biological impossibilities into the realm of the possible".[4]

George Bernard Shaw wrote of Brukhonenko's decapitation experiment: "I am even tempted to have my own head cut off so that I can continue to dictate plays and books without being bothered by illness, without having to dress and undress, without having to eat, without having anything else to do other than to produce masterpieces of dramatic art and literature."[1][11] The Canadian Medical Association Journal, writing in 1959 in its listing of medical films, described the film as "[w]ell photographed and well arranged" and stated it "[held] interest throughout", though noted it was "[i]nappropriate for the general public".[12] Film historian Alisa Nasrtdinova, writing for the Gosfilmofond, praised the film, saying that the "shocking scenes" were shot with care.[8]

The legitimacy of the film is controversial, with some commentators suggesting it is a recreation of the actual experiments, which were more modest.[1][10] According to some scientists who claimed to have seen the experiments in the film, the severed dog head only survived for a few minutes when attached to the artificial heart, as opposed to the hours claimed in the film.[13] Another source of skepticism are the dogs drained of blood and then brought back to life, as after 10 minutes of death they should have experienced serious brain damage. According to the institute’s records, the dogs only survived for a few days, not several years as the film claimed.[14]

Brukhonenko developed a new version of heart-lung machine demonstrated in the film, the autojektor, for use on human patients in the same year; it can be seen today on display at the Museum of Cardiovascular Surgery at the Bakulev Scientific Center of Cardiovascular Surgery in Russia.[15] The autojektor was designed and constructed by Brukhonenko, whose work in the film is said to have led to the first operations on heart valves. It is similar to modern extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machines, as well as the systems commonly used for renal dialysis in modern nephrology.[16][17] Brukhonenko was posthumously awarded the prestigious Lenin Prize.[14]

In popular culture edit

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b c d e f Tredoux, Gavan (April 24, 2018). "Experiments in the Revival of Organisms". Comrade Haldane Is Too Busy to Go on Holiday: The Genius Who Spied for Stalin. Encounter Books. ISBN 978-1-59403-984-3. Retrieved February 14, 2024 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Yashin, David (1940). Опыты по оживлению организма [Experiments in the Revival of Organisms] (Motion picture) (in Russian). Retrieved December 10, 2022 – via culture.ru.
  3. ^ a b c "Experiments In Death: Soviet scientists bring dead dogs back to life". LIFE. Vol. 15, no. 17. October 25, 1943. pp. 119–120, 122, 125. Retrieved February 14, 2024 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ a b c "Science: Red Research". TIME. November 22, 1943. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved May 25, 2006.
  5. ^ a b Yashin, David (1940). Experiments in the Revival of Organisms (Motion picture). Techfilm Studio. Retrieved April 28, 2017 – via Archive.org.
  6. ^ Krementsov, Nikolai (June 2009). "Off with your heads: isolated organs in early Soviet science and fiction". Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences. 40 (2): 87–100. doi:10.1016/j.shpsc.2009.03.001. ISSN 1879-2499. PMC 2743238. PMID 19442924. Retrieved April 28, 2017.
  7. ^ Swain, Frank (June 11, 2013). How to Make a Zombie: The Real Life (and Death) Science of Reanimation and Mind Control. Oneworld Publications. p. 39. ISBN 9781851689446. Retrieved February 20, 2024 – via Archive.org.
  8. ^ a b Насртдинова, Алиса. "Советский науч-поп о человеке и животном: психофизиология Ивана Павлова" [Soviet pop science about man and animal: the psychophysiology of Ivan Pavlov]. Gosfilmofond (in Russian). Retrieved February 14, 2024.
  9. ^ "Betwixt life and death!". The Bombay Chronicle. October 7, 1945. p. 3. Retrieved December 10, 2022 – via Archive.org.
  10. ^ a b Pappas, Charles (November 1, 2017). "Stayin' Alive". Flying Cars, Zombie Dogs, and Robot Overlords: How World's Fairs and Trade Expos Changed the World. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 129–131. ISBN 978-1-63076-240-7. Retrieved February 14, 2024 – via Google Books.
  11. ^ Boese, Alex (November 5, 2007). Elephants on Acid: And Other Bizarre Experiments (1st ed.). Mariner Books. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-15-603135-6. Retrieved February 19, 2024 – via Archive.org.
  12. ^ "Medical Films: Experiments in the Revival of Organisms". Canadian Medical Association Journal. 80 (3): 219. February 1, 1959. PMC 1830608. Retrieved February 14, 2024.
  13. ^ Bellows, Alan (2009). Alien Hand Syndrome: And Other Too-Weird-Not-to-Be-True Stories. Workman Publishing Company. pp. 31–33. ISBN 9780761152255. Retrieved March 2, 2020 – via Archive.org.
  14. ^ a b "Собачье сердце, собачья голова" [A dog's heart, a dog's head]. Naked Science (in Russian). January 23, 2014. Retrieved December 10, 2022.
  15. ^ "Отдел истории сердечно-сосудистой хирургии" [Department of Cardiovascular History]. Bakulev Scientific Center of Cardiovascular Surgery (in Russian). Archived from the original on February 8, 2006. Retrieved March 6, 2006.
  16. ^ Glyantsev, Sergey P.; Bogopolsky, Pavel M.; Tchantchaleishvili, Vakhtang (2018). "Bryukhonenko's Autojector: The First Apparatus for Cardiopulmonary Bypass and Extracorporeal Life Support". ASAIO Journal. 64 (1): 129–133. doi:10.1097/MAT.0000000000000605. ISSN 1538-943X. PMID 28617693. S2CID 24010887. Retrieved April 28, 2017.
  17. ^ Konstantinov, Igor E; Alexi-Meskishvili, Vladimir V (2000). "Sergei S. Brukhonenko: the development of the first heart-lung machine for total body perfusion". The Annals of Thoracic Surgery. 69 (3): 962–966. doi:10.1016/s0003-4975(00)01091-2. ISSN 0003-4975. Retrieved April 28, 2017.
  18. ^ Szymborska, Wisława (1995). "Experiment". View with a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems (1 ed.). New York: Harcourt Brace & Co. pp. 104–105. ISBN 978-0-15-600216-5. Retrieved February 20, 2024 – via Archive.org.
  19. ^ Apatoff, Ben (August 15, 2021). Metallica: The $24.95 Book. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 254. ISBN 978-1-4930-6135-8. Retrieved February 14, 2024 – via Google Books.
  20. ^ Cicirega, Neil (2018). Spirit Phone (Commentary track). Needlejuice Records. Event occurs at 1:36. This track is called "Lifetime Achievement Award". I picked that title late in production. [...] Some early versions I think were named "Experiments in the Revival", which is a reference to "Experiments in the Revival of Organisms", a 1940s Soviet medical film, where they supposedly kept a severed dog's head alive with science. I've never actually watched this clip 'cause it just sounds really disturbing. Although it's possibly fake, but I'm glad I didn't go with that title, because it's maybe too freaky a reference right out of the gate.