Vladimir Petrovich Demikhov was a Soviet scientist widely regarded as an organ transplantation pioneer. Between the 1930s and 1950s, he conducted several experimental transplantations on animals. These include the first heart transplant into the thorax, lung transplant, heart-lung transplant, and head transplant. Considered one of the finest experimental surgeons of the 20th century, Demikhov gained notoriety for creating two-headed dogs through the transplantation of dog heads. He coined the term transplantology, and his monograph Experimental transplantation of vital organs, which earned him a doctorate, was the first monograph on transplantology. It was the only paper on the subject for a considerable amount of time. Christiaan Barnard, the cardiac surgeon who performed the world’s first human-to-human heart transplant, regarded Demikhov as his teacher and visited his lab twice. Demikhov’s scientific contributions garnered him the “Order of Merit for the Fatherland, Third Class,” a state decoration of the Russian Federation, as well as the USSR State Prize.
Childhood, Education, and Early Attempts
Demikhov was born in a peasant household on July 18, 1916, in Yarizenskaia village, Moscow, Russia. During the Russian civil conflict, his father was killed. His mother reared him and his two younger siblings. His mother was not highly educated, but she worked diligently to provide a quality education for her children. 1934 found Demikhov in Moscow, where he enrolled at the University of Moscow to pursue biology.
In 1937, while attending Moscow University, Demikhov, who primarily experimented on canines and other animals, created the first mechanical cardiac-assistance device. The device that could take over cardiac function for approximately five hours was, however, too large to be implanted in a dog’s thorax. He conducted the first animal experiments involving the removal of the heart while maintaining circulation.
In 1940, he graduated from the University of Moscow and began working as an assistant in the university’s Department of Physiology. Implantation of an artificial heart was considered impossible at the time. Demikhov nevertheless transplanted a heart into the inguinal region of a canine.
He realized, however, that the active function of the heart can only be accomplished through transplantation into the thorax, and that the heart cannot play an effective role in blood circulation if transplanted into the inguinal region or neck vessels.
Role During the Second World War
Following his basic military training, Demikhov was promoted to the rank of lieutenant, and his research work took a back position. As a pathologist, he was posted to a field evacuation facility. The war’s circumstances and effects presented a formidable obstacle for the otherwise honorable Demikhov.
During a conversation with his adored daughter about his wartime experiences, Demikhov mentioned that soldiers would sometimes shoot themselves in order to seek refuge in the hospital. As such conduct was considered a war crime punishable by death, he was previously consulted as a forensic expert.
Demikhov was fully aware of the consequences he could face for his falsehoods, but he did his best to save the lives of as many soldiers as possible by tampering with the evidence that would have proven their injuries were self-inflicted.
After World War II Activities and Experiments
Demikhov was in Berlin during Germany’s capitulation. In 1945, he traveled from Berlin to China with his unit before returning to Moscow at the end of the year. In 1946, he conducted the first successful intrathoracic transplantation of a heart and lung, as well as the heart and lungs together in a mammal while experimenting on canines. On June 30, that year, the first tangible evidence of his procedure’s success emerged when a dog survived a heterotopic heart–lung transplantation for 9.5 hours.
From 1947 to 1955, he worked at the ‘Institute of Surgery’ in Moscow, where he pursued his experiments. In the 1950s, a review committee of the Soviet Ministry of Health deemed his research unethical and ordered him to stop. However, the director of the Institute of Surgery, Alexander V. Vishnevsky, surgeon-in-charge of the Soviet armed forces, used his own authority to allow Demikhov to continue his research.
The design of Demikhov’s heart–lung preparation was founded on the 1886 introduction of the first heart–lung preparation by I. P. Pavlov and N. Ia. Chistovich. Knowlton and Starling elucidated in 1912 a more sophisticated and intricate heart–lung preparation. Demikhov simplified and utilized this preparation in the early 1950s. When the human heart and lung transplantation becomes possible in the future, he said, this preparation will facilitate the transfer of functioning organs.
On July 29, 1953, he successfully performed the first coronary bypass surgery on a canine. Although such experimental work by Demikhov was initially viewed as impractical and eccentric by many, V.I. Kolesov conducted additional experiments in Leningrad and became the pioneer of effective coronary bypasses. Kolesov acknowledged Demikhov’s pioneering work in a number of his own publications.
In 1954, Demikhov performed a canine head transplant, which was arguably the most controversial experimental surgery of the 20th century. The news of this groundbreaking surgery spread like wildfire around the world, causing the scientist both controversy and indignation.
The clinical utility of head transplantation was questioned, and Demikhov was labeled by many as a charlatan. Although he conducted groundbreaking experiments in organ transplantation that paved the way for a new era in the field, Demikhov is primarily remembered as a legendary scientist who performed head transplants on canines, resulting in two-headed dogs.
From 1955 to 1960, he worked at the Sechenov Medical Institute in Moscow, and from 1960 to 1986, he worked at the Sklifosovsky Emergency Institute. On September 16, 1960, he became a member of the Royal Scientific Society of Uppsala, Sweden.
In that year, he published his monograph titled “Experimental transplantation of vital organs,” which became the world’s first monograph on transplantology and remained the only one on the subject for a considerable amount of time. It was subsequently published in 1962 in New York, in 1963 in Berlin, and in 1967 in Madrid.
In April 1989, he received the first Pioneer Award from the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation for his pioneering contribution to the development and application of artificial hearts for intrathoracic transplantation.
Personal History and Legacy
In August of 1946, he wed a woman named Lia, with whom he had a daughter named Olga on July 16, 1947.
This legendary scientist suffered a recurrent stroke in April 1998, lost his wife on July 11, 1998, and passed away on November 22, 1998, leaving behind his only daughter.
Estimated Net Worth
He is a native of the Russian Empire [now Russia]. Vladimir Demikhov’s net worth, money, salary, revenue, and assets have all been calculated. In 2022, your net worth will be $5 million.