1924 | Paris

Fountain of Youth

Serge Voronoff gives his patients a boost.

Case 4—Frenchman. Man of letters. 

Age sixty-four.

His childhood was uneventful. At the age of twenty-two, he contracted malarial fever in Africa. He still has frequent malarial attacks. He presents all the characteristic features of premature senility. In appearance he is an old man; the cheeks are flaccid; the face wrinkled; the body bent; the eyes dim and with the prominent arcus senilis. All physical effort is distasteful; the walk is dragging, and he complains of intense lassitude. He is mentally slow and is increasingly liable to awkward lapses of memory. He has been sexually impotent for eight years.

He was operated upon on November 16, 1920, at the Maison de Santé, rue Montaigne, Dr. Didry assisting.

One testicle of a baboon was engrafted.

The testicle was cut into eight slices, four of which were fastened to the internal surface of the left tunica vaginalis, and four to the external surface of the right tunica vaginalis, upon the external face of the parietal layer.

There were no postoperative symptoms.

The history of this case was published two years after operation and contains the following note:

Twenty-three days after the operation, the patient reported a sexual manifestation. This was the more remarkable because, having been impotent for eight years, he had ceased to think about the matter and had considered the graft entirely from the point of view of its effect upon his general health. The sexual manifestations were frequently repeated later, and his sexual activity at the end of two years was entirely normal, such as it had been when he was fifteen years younger. At the same time, his external appearance changed completely and in a most astonishing manner. His carriage became erect, the muscles of his face firm, his eyes bright; and in spite of his white hair, he conveyed an impression of youth, vigor, and energy that was most surprising. He resumed his earlier manner of living, was able to take long walks and spend late nights at the theater. Moreover, and this filled him with delight, he recovered his powers of expression and was able to write without fatigue for hours on end.

This state of things lasted for two and a half years, during which time he not only enjoyed all his renewed powers, but grossly abused them. I counseled moderation, but he invariably replied:

“When I have used up the capital you have given me, I will ask you to repeat the operation, as you did with your old rams.” 

And that is precisely what happened. In May 1923, he demanded a new graft, asserting that, without exactly relapsing into his former debilitated condition, he was no longer sensible to the overpowering energy that, until the last few months, he had experienced since his operation. I consented to repeat the graft, all the more readily because the experiment was a very tempting one, and one, moreover, that I had had no other opportunity of attempting with man as the subject.

He was operated upon on June 13, 1923, at the Maison de Santé Ambroise Paré, Neuilly, Dr. Dartigues assisting.

He was grafted with one testicle from a baboon and with one from a chimpanzee. Both testicles were grafted at the one operation, the animals employed being those used in Case 40. 

Three slices from the chimpanzee were grafted onto the external surface of the parietal layer of the right tunica vaginalis. Three slices from the baboon were implanted in the same manner onto the left tunica vaginalis.

On October 3, 1923, four months after the operation, the patient reported as follows:

This time the results were slower in making themselves felt. In the case of the first graft, I was aware of the effects after about two months, but this was not the case with the second. Now, however, I am in full possession of my powers, which are equal in every way to those resulting from the first operation. My present improved condition—­moral, physical, and intellectual—­is due to the result of the second graft, and for the past five weeks there have been definite local manifestations. I have also been able to work, and the book upon which I have been engaged, together with its prologue, is nearly finished.


Serge Voronoff

From Rejuvenation by Grafting. After studying with the surgeon Alexis Carrel, Voronoff began experimenting with transplanting organs, bone, and tissue between animal species; at the Collège de France, he attempted to implant testicular tissue from young sheep and horses into older ones to build up their strength. He then began transplanting glands and organs from chimpanzees into humans, claiming the sexual organs provided “a vital fluid that restores the energy of all the cells and spreads happiness.” In 1923 a newspaper ran the headline voronoff positive he can convert grandmothers to debutantes.