Experiments in the Revival of Organisms

"Experiments in the Revival of Organisms" is a 1940 motion picture which documents Soviet research into the resuscitation of clinically dead organisms (YouTube item cEcUTMpyRLY). It is available from the Prelinger Archives, where it is in the public domain. The British scientist J. B. S. Haldane appears in the film's introduction and narrates the film, which contains Russian text with English applied next to, or over the top of, the Russian. The operations are credited to Doctor Sergei S. Bryukhonenko.

Contents of the film

The film depicts and discusses, without going into much technical detail, a series of medical experiments. First, a heart (canine, as with all in this film) is shown beating isolated from a body, with four tubes connected.

It then shows a lung in a tray, operated by bellows, oxygenating blood.

Following the lung scene we are shown the operation of a primitive heart-lung machine, the autojektor (or autojector), composed of a pair of diaphragm linear pumps and what appears to be an oxygen bubble chamber. We then see it is supplying a canine head with oxygenated blood. The head is shown to respond to external stimuli, but the film does not show the arterial and venal connections to the head.

Finally, a dog is brought to clinical death (mostly via a graphical plot of lung and heart activity) by draining all blood from it, left for ten minutes, then connected to the heart-lung machine described earlier. After several minutes, the heart fibrillates, then restarts a normal rhythm. Respiration likewise resumes, the machine is removed and the dog is shown to continue living a healthy life.

Fact or fiction?

Since its Prelinger Archives release, the film has provoked much controversy. Ken Smith, author of , believes the film is fake. He mentions, among other things, that the decapitated dog scene shown in the film could have been produced with simple special effects. Smith cites only his reaction to the film as evidence. Others are skeptical of J. B. S. Haldane's ties to the Communist party; Fact|date=April 2008 they propose that the film was produced as Soviet propaganda.

However, while the film could have been re-staged for the camera, it almost certainly depicts a series of real experiments. Bryukhonenko's work with canine circulation seems obscure today, but at the time was well publicized; Fact|date=April 2008 his decapitation experiment was even remarked upon by George Bernard Shaw. [cite web| url=http://www.dgfkt.de/artikel/203/Pionier.htm| title=Sergej Sergejewitsch Brychonenko| accessdate=2006-03-06] Bryukhonenko's procedures are attested to in numerous books and medical papers, with some sources providing detailed technical information on the operations shown in the film. Fact|date=April 2008 These texts also shed light on failures not mentioned in the film. For example, the severed heads survived only minutes in artificial circulation, while the resuscitated dogs often died after a few days Fact|date=April 2008 while the film says the severed heads lived for hours and the resuscitated dogs lived for years.

There are also certain anatomical issues they were ignored such as the fact draining blood from the circulatory system causes the vessels to collapse which would make reintroduction of blood as depicted in the film difficult if not impossible. Fact|date=April 2008 Also the procedure with severed head only mentioned oxygenated blood being fed back into the severed head. Neural cells require other components besides just oxygen to survive and function properly for anything but the briefest time. It seems likely that while the experiments were not faked in their entirety the film itself was staged and the achievements exaggerated. Fact|date=April 2008

Bryukhonenko's research was vital to the development of open-heart procedures in Russia. He was one of the leaders of the Research Institute of Experimental Surgery, where Professor A.A. Vishnevsky performed the first Soviet open-heart operation in 1957. Fact|date=April 2008 Bryukhonenko developed a new version of the autojektor (for use on humans) in the same year; it can be seen today on display at the Museum of Cardiovascular Surgery at the Scientific Center of Cardiovascular Surgery in Russia. [cite web| url=http://www.bakulev.ru/structure/history/museum.htm| title=Museum of Cardiovascular Surgery
] Bryukhonenko was awarded the prestigious Lenin Prize posthumously. Fact|date=April 2008

References in popular culture

Elements of the storyline in the 2008 movie "" allude to these experiments. One scene directly references them and the dog's head is briefly glimpsed as a character carries out online research. [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0443701/faq]


See Suspended Animation

External links

* [http://www.archive.org/movies/details-db.php?collection=prelinger&collectionid=19635 The film on the Internet Archive]
* [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,851883,00.html Time Magazine reports on the film's premiere]
* [http://www.bakulev.ru/structure/history/museum.htm The Autojektor on display at the Scientific Center of Cardiovascular Surgery] (in Russian) (link defunct as of January 8th, 2008)
* [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=5264992&dopt=Abstract A medical paper on Bryukhonenko's work] (in Russian, requires PubMed access)
* [http://analytics.ex.ru/cgi-bin/txtnscr.pl?node=578&txt=460&lang=2&sh=1 Bryukhonenko excerpt from "The Golden Book of Russia. The Year 2000"]
* [http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4894196323956293980&q=Experiments+in+the+Revival+of+Organisms&hl=en The video, on Google video.]

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