Science: Lazarus, Dead & Alive

  • Share
  • Read Later

Motionless on a white-covered table, small and insignificant in the harsh brilliance of overhead lamps, a fox terrier listed in the laboratory records as Lazarus II lay last week in a gloomy old building on the University of California's campus. White-clad figures moved in & out of the glare, watching the creature they had asphyxiated with ether and nitrogen. Lazarus II's heart stopped beating and he no longer breathed. His shoe-button eyes were glazed. Lazarus II was dead.

When six minutes had elapsed since the last heartbeat, sallow young Dr. Robert E. Cornish moved Lazarus II to a seesaw-like device called a teeterboard. There he opened one of the terrier's thigh veins to admit a saline solution saturated with oxygen and containing the heart stimulant adrenalin, the liver extract heparin and some canine blood from which the fibrin (coagulating substance) had been removed. While he breathed gustily into the dog's mouth, his assistant rubbed the kinky-haired little body, rocked it on the teeterboard. The stimulant solution sank in a glass gauge as it seeped into the corpse through five feet of rubber tubing. In a little while the gauge level stopped falling, began to rise in slow pulsations. Lazarus II gasped. His leg twitched. His heart began to beat, feebly at first, then like a triphammer, then normally. Lazarus II was alive.

For eight hours and 13 minutes the dog lay in an uneasy coma, whining, panting, barking, as if ridden by nightmares. Eager to speed recovery, Dr. Cornish injected some glucose solution. A blood clot formed and Lazarus II died again, this time for good and all.

Dr. Cornish selected another terrier, killed it and revived it the same way. But though no glucose was used the second dog also died a final death, after five hours. Said Dr. Cornish: "If the second animal had been dead two minutes instead of eight, I think it very likely he would have recovered. We will try the experiment again in a few days."

Thirty years ago Cleveland's famed Dr. George Washington Crile was experimenting on dead dogs with saline solutions, adrenalin, chest massages. Frequently Dr. Crile induced a resumption of the heartbeat after a few minutes' cessation, but the heart stopped again quickly because of blood clotting.

Two years ago the problem of resuscitation began to absorb Dr. Cornish. Last year he tried but failed to revive a man dead five hours of heart disease with oxygen mask and teeterboard, no injections. He had no better luck with two men dead six hours.

Despite last week's temporary success with dogs, Dr. Cornish will try to revive no more human corpses until he can nurse '"dead" animals to complete recovery. Onetime staffmember of the University of California's Institute of Experimental Biology, he has been carrying on with the aid of CWA funds.