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The REAL Frankensteins

ScientistDaily Mail has an article on what the American and Russian scientists managed to achieve in pursuing the ultimate goal of transplanting a human head during the 1950s to the 1970s.

In pursuing this medical goal, Vladimir Demikhov - and his American rival, Robert White - may seem to be the epitome of immoral scientists who ignored all ethical considerations in their pursuit of scientific advance. But in their own minds, they were brilliant pioneers prepared to think the unthinkable for the greater good of mankind.

Vladimir Demikhov created a two-headed dog (to be revealed in a National Geographic documentary to be screened later this month)

The lights of his laboratory shone into the small hours of that February morning in 1954 as he and his team set about the intricate task of stitching the upper half of the puppy to the larger animal and connecting their blood vessels and windpipes.

As dawn approached, they waited to see if their creation would regain consciousness. Their first sign of success came when the puppy's head woke up and yawned. It was quickly joined by the larger 'natural' head of the mastiff, which gave its new addition a puzzled look and tried to shake it off.

The composite dog was ready to be revealed to the world. Though it had no body of its own, the smaller animal's head was reported to have kept its own personality, remaining as playful as any other puppy, according to Soviet propaganda.

"The host-dog was bored by all this but soon became reconciled to the unaccountable puppy that had sprouted out of its neck," their correspondent wrote. "When it got thirsty, the puppy also got thirsty. When the laboratory grew hot, both host-dog and puppy panted to cool off."

After six days, the bizarre hybrid died.

Robert White replaced one animal's head with another

This highly complicated operation took White three years to plan and he knew many people would find it morally repugnant. But in the late afternoon of March 14, 1970, he went ahead with the world's first true head transplant, using two rhesus monkeys.

Decapitating both animals, the surgeon successfully managed to stitch the head of one monkey on to the body of the other. He and his team then faced a nervous wait until finally the 'hybrid' monkey regained consciousness, opened its eyes and tried to bite a surgeon who put a finger in its mouth.

The team clapped and cheered as their creation moved its facial muscles, followed their movements with its eyes and even drank from a pipette. But though White regarded the operation as a major success, he knew it had one major limitation.

Because its spinal cord had been severed as part of the operation, the monkey was paralysed from the neck down and it was impossible for the surgeons to reconnect the hundreds of millions of nerve threads necessary for it to regain any bodily movement.

Link & Image: DailyMail
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