Scientists Exposed Doing Strange Experiments
Lots of scientists have conducted strange experiments in the past. Coming up are some unusual experiments conducted by scientists that were very weird.Science
Sometimes, science gets weird. While it’s responsible for every incredible advancement we take for granted today, there have been (and still are) a few oddballs in the scientific community. From human-animal hybrids to the real-life Frankenstein’s pet dog, let’s explore some of the strangest scientific experiments ever conducted.
Until recently, it seemed human-animal hybrids were purely the stuff of science fiction. But recent developments in genetic engineering are making those sci-fi tales a reality. In 2016, part-human, part-pig embryos were successfully created by scientists. The purpose was to create healthy animals that can grow transplantable, human organs when needed, to ease the global shortage of organ donors.
To create the chimeras, scientists used an advanced gene-editing technique, known as CRISPR, to delete the parts of the fetal pigs’ DNA responsible for developing the specific organ. Then, human stem cells are inserted into pig fetuses. Stem cells are genetically blank cells that can adapt to almost any purpose in the body, depending on the chemical commands they’re subject to.
In the early stages, when the pig fetuses haven’t yet developed their immune systems, their bodies don’t reject the foreign, human stem cells. With the human cells in place, they’re able to grow into human organs.
For now, the scientists conducting the study won’t let the pigs develop beyond the fetal stages, but authorities have already raised concerns. After all, what would the ethical implications be if a modified pig was given a human brain, and hence more human-like intelligence?
And what if livestock diseases became transferrable to humans? While scientists say the chances of these outcomes are low, this has the potential to become one of the biggest debates of our time.
In the last decade, a series of experiments from various universities have found an eyebrow-raising pattern of rejuvenation in aging lab animals. When injected with the blood of younger specimens, older mice have shown a reversal of some signs of aging. Thanks to certain growth proteins, the young blood can rejuvenate muscle, brain structure, the vascular system, and even the older mice’s abilities to learn.
While the mice study is creepy in its own right, one blood-curdling case of human applications ended up involving the FDA. A California startup named Ambrosia inspired by these and similar studies, began offering blood transfusions from younger people to senior citizens at $8,000 a treatment, promising rejuvenation.
In response, the FDA released an official statement clarifying that there is no proof that this will provide any benefit for humans. But it’s too late, the time of the vampire has come. Hopefully, they’ll be more Count Chocula and less Nosferatu.
Nope, I didn’t just miswrite, Stubbins Ffirth is a real name, spelled correctly. This oddly-named, 19th-century doctor had a theory, and he was willing to do whatever it took to prove was right. Ffirth’s theories revolved around yellow fever, a short-term virus that causes nausea, headaches, and occasionally liver damage. These liver issues occasionally cause yellowing of the skin, hence the name yellow fever.
Ffirth theorized that the disease wasn’t contagious, and decided to use the vomit of those infected to prove it. He started by cutting his own arm and pouring the vomit of sufferers into the wounds. He then migrated to pouring it into his eyeballs and even heating the vomit and inhaling the fumes. Finally, and most famously, he consumed an entire glass of the stuff.
Ffirth never caught yellow fever from any of this and saw this as proof his theory was correct. He was right, as it was later discovered that mosquitos are responsible for the transfer of the virus. But I can’t help feeling Stubbins could’ve carried out experiments without the whole infected cocktail thing.
Dr. Ewan Cameron was one of the many scientists under the employment of the CIA in the 50s and 60s. He was part of the precursor and core projects of MKUltra, a program seeking to develop mind control for various military and political purposes. The experiments, directly sponsored by the US government, were wide-ranging and oftentimes unbelievably cruel.
One experiment led by Cameron, Subproject 68, explored the idea of rewriting personalities to cure mental illness. To do so, Cameron would restrain subjects and put them into a chemically-induced coma for weeks, or sometimes even months. During this coma, he would play tapes of specific sounds or simple statements on a loop, noting whether the tapes would positively impact subjects’ behavior upon waking.
The experiments were a disaster. The subjects Cameron chose had been checked into a psychiatric hospital for relatively minor issues like anxiety disorders and depression. When the experiments were over, these issues had only been made worse.
Subjects began to suffer from amnesia, loss of speech, incontinence, and even an inability to identify key people in their lives. Like many CIA experiments in this period, Cameron’s amounted to little more than torturing innocent people.
The Tuskegee Experiment
In 1932, 600 poor and illiterate African-American men from Alabama were intentionally infected with syphilis to study its long-term, untreated effects. All the subjects knew was that they were being given free healthcare from the U.S. government. There was no mention of infecting them with the disease.
What’s worse, illiterate men were specifically chosen because they couldn’t possibly read their documents to learn the truth of what was being done to them. While the experiment was going on, Penicillin was discovered elsewhere as a cure for syphilis, but it was never offered to the Tuskegee men.
This was because the experiment’s overseers wanted to see the full progression of the disease, despite the fact that treatment was already available. Nearly 130 men died of syphilis and its complications during the forty-year course of the Tuskegee experiment. Many more, who may have never otherwise caught it, suffered its effects. That’s not to mention their wives, who contracted the disease, or the children born with congenital syphilis.
Eventually, some more ethically-minded doctors caught wind of the experiment, and the resultant media outrage finally put an end to it in 1972. But it was too little too late for all those who’d suffered and died. All because they’d been optimistic enough to trust a benevolent-seeming offer from their government.
Stephen Gore and the Real-Life Frankenstein
In July 2019, a task force raided Arizona’s biological resource center and discovered a hideous scene. The building, which was supposed to be used for research, was filled with buckets of infected human body parts, scattered messily around. Bodies were stacked on top of one another in storage and body parts were sorted without tags or identification.
But there was more than just awful hygiene and untidiness at play. It became clear that something much more sinister was going on when officers spotted the main attraction. Mounted to a wall was a male torso with the head of a female sewn onto its shoulders.
The agents suspected it was some kind of twisted, morbid joke. The families, who were led to believe that their loved ones’ bodies would be used in medical research, didn’t find it so funny.
The chaotic, hellish scenes made no sense at first until a body parts price list was eventually found, leading investigators to conclude that they were being sold on the black market. The 33 families filed a civil case in court against the owner of the facility. And as if this case wasn’t already gothic enough, the owner’s name was Stephen Gore!
The Researcher Who Let a Sand Flea Live in Her Foot
Sand fleas are a parasitic insect commonly found in South America and sub-Saharan Africa. They cause tungiasis; a painful condition that turns the host’s skin black. The females burrow into the skin of an often human host, creating a cozy burrow where they reproduce.
We only learned this final fact in 2013, thanks to the slightly unconventional methods of one Ph.D. student, Marlene Thielecke. Marlene had traveled to Madagascar to study ways of preventing tungiasis when she noticed a sand flea had burrowed itself into her foot.
Seizing an opportunity that most of us would never dream of, Thielecke allowed the flea to remain there so she could observe it. The flea remained in her foot for two months, causing her more pain by the day. Usually, female sand fleas swell substantially after finding a fleshy home, as they gorge themselves on blood and produce eggs.
And when one burrows in, many more tend to follow, and before you know it, you’re dealing with your very own, personal infestation. But for some reason, these things never happened with Thielecke’s flea. Eventually, researchers realized that by wearing socks and shoes, Thielecke had prevented other fleas from providing a booty call to her new neighbor.
With this new information, scientists were able to conclude that sand fleas are impregnated after they attach to their host. This information is valuable, but still pretty gross. After all, no one wants to think about fleas getting busy under their skin. But compared to some of the other experiments we’ve discussed, it’s basically heartwarming!
Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov and the Soviet Ape-Man
Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov was a Soviet Russian biologist with an obsessive vision for the future. He specialized in artificial insemination and hybridization, and his unusual talents contributed significantly to the livestock industries, especially horse breeding.
But his overarching, life-long aim was much more bizarre. Ivanov was certain that it was possible to create a hybrid between humans and apes. He believed that combining strength with intelligence in such a way could create the perfect soldier.
During the 1920s, Ivanov repeatedly attempted to inseminate apes with human semen but was unsuccessful. That may seem unsurprising, but there’s evidence to suggest that human sperm is occasionally able to latch onto ape eggs. This wasn’t discovered until the late 20th century, however, and Ivanov was simply operating on an oddly overpowering hunch.
His next effort was to inseminate female human volunteers with ape semen. Thankfully, his efforts were thwarted when his last remaining ape, an orangutan, died before the experiment could begin. Ivanov died a few years later, and his experiments fell into obscurity.
Sergei Sergeyevich Brukhonenko Reviving Dead Dogs
These days, Soviet-era biomedical scientist, Sergei Sergeyevich Brukhonenko is celebrated for being one of history’s leaders in experimental surgery. He developed one of the earliest heart-and-lung support machines, which he called the "autojektor", but he also had some very creepy side projects.
Brukhonenko became famous after being featured in a Soviet film called Experiments in the Revival of Organisms. The film, now believed to be a studio recreation, demonstrates the incredible experiments that Brukhonenko did indeed perform.
Of all his bizarre experiments, the strangest by far was using his autojektor to keep dogs’ heads alive after removing them from their bodies. The film shows the dog’s head, its veins supplied with oxygenated blood, responding to stimuli without needing a body.
For his contributions to the science of life-support, Brukhonenko was posthumously awarded the prestigious Lenin Prize, one of the highest honors in the USSR. Despite that, there are certainly some questions that can be raised about the ethics of decapitation dogs for science.
Vladimir Petrovich Demikhov's Two-Headed Dog
Another Soviet-era scientist, Vladimir Petrovich Demikhov, was a pioneer in organ transplants. While his contributions were invaluable, Demikhov is famous for his most ethically dubious experiments. For a period of just over five years, Demikhov began using his transplant techniques to successfully create two-headed dogs.
By attaching a puppy’s head and forelegs directly up to the vascular system of a larger dog, Demikhov created living, breathing Franken-pups. While the attached head couldn’t eat in a traditional sense, as it wasn’t wired up to a digestive tract, it was sustained by oxygenated blood from its host.
Demikhov performed the experiment two dozen times, and his most successful experiment lived for a month. But if there’s a perfect example of scientists focusing on whether they can, not whether they should, it’s this one.
However, Demikhov performed most of the first warm-blooded, non-human, organ transplants, which were hugely beneficial to science. He indirectly saved millions of lives with his work on transplants, but he probably should’ve left multi-headed dogs in the realm of fantasy.
But if it makes you feel better, even in Soviet Russia at the time, people condemned his double-dog dabbling. So, scientists out there, now that we’ve seen the grotesque horrors of the past, can we leave the pooches alone? They’ve been through enough. If you were amazed at these scientists exposed doing strange experiments you might want to read our article about dangerous experiments conducted by real-life mad scientists. Thanks for reading!