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In 1920s, A Device Brought a Canine Head Back To Alive Without a Heart or Lungs

The Soviet physician-scientist Sergei Brukhonenko was able to keep a canine head alive without a heart and lungs by the support of his “Autojektor”. This device was his amazing invention with early medical technology and it could keep the head alive by circulating oxygenated blood around the brain and restoring the essential functions of the head. Let’s dive into this fascinating chapter of scientific history.

Who did invent this?

Autojektor was a brilliant invention of Sergei Brukhonenko. He wasn’t some mad scientist, he was a physician deeply affected by his experiences during World War I. Witnessing countless deaths due to injuries that could potentially be repaired with functioning organs. He became obsessed with developing a machine that could take over the heart and lungs’ jobs for a short period.

Sergei Brukhonenko
Sergei Brukhonenko
Image source : Wikipedia

Brukonenko headed the Institute of Experimental Surgical Devices and Instruments from 1951 to 1958. After his experiments with canines, Brukonenko was allowed to continue his automaton experiments with human cadavers. However, these experiments failed to yield encouraging results, and Brukhonenko left from the leadership. On 20th April in 1960, Brukonenko passed away from a rectal cancer.

Groundbreaking Experiment

In 1939, Brukhonenko used his Autojektor for the series of experiments on canines. He kept a canine’s head alive for an incredible hour and 40 minutes in one experiment. During this time, the head even displayed reflexes. These experiments were documented in a film called “Experiments in the Revival of Organisms” produced in 1940.

Autojektor using for a dog head
A patent diagram showing the setup of the procedure
Image Source : Wikipedia

The film shows a series of medical experiments, starting with a canine’s isolated heart and lungs. They were being kept alive and functioning outside the body. One of the most weird scenes was a canine brought to clinical death by draining its blood. After ten minutes, the dog was connected to the Autojektor, which gradually returned the blood to its body. Miraculously, the heart restarted, and it eventually recovered and lived a healthy life.

Later on, Bryukhonenko developed a new version of Autojektor for human patients. But he never applied his device in clinical practices. Nikolay Terebinsky who collaborated with Bryukhonenko, applied this concept for open heart experiments from 1929 to 1940. Although he never get much acknowledgement to his contribution, Bryukhonenko and Terebinsky must be appreciated to their groundbreaking experiment. It was able to be the turning point of the development of cardiac surgery in Soviet Union.

Today it can be seen on display at the Museum of Cardiovascular Surgery at the Bakulev Scientific Center of Cardiovascular Surgery in Russia.

Unveiling the Autojektor

Autojektor 1
Autojektor
Image Source : Wikipedia


This first heart-lung bypass machine, Autojektor, worked by diverting blood from the body, pumping oxygen into it, and then sending the oxygenated blood back through the system. It doesn’t sound very easy, but Brukhonenko’s experiments were groundbreaking.

Conclusion 

Sergei Brukhonenko’s experiments were a remarkable blend of science and imagination, pushing the boundaries of what was possible. His legacy lives on in the life-saving technologies used in hospitals today.

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