Bioquark, a US life science company, plan to trial the use of stem cells to reverse the fate of brain dead patients by bringing their central nervous system back to life.
According to Scientific American, the idea is to inject the stem cells into the spinal cords of people who have been declared clinically brain-dead. This will be in addition to electrical nerve stimulation and laser therapy directed at the brain.
The company are involved in research in multiple other areas including other kinds of degeneration in humans like Alzheimer’s disease and ALS.
“The company is focused on merging knowledge from various disciplines, including regenerative biology, evolutionary genomics, and bio-cybernetics to develop a set of novel bio-products capable of directly remodeling diseased, damaged, or aged tissues, creating micro-environments that induce efficient and controllable regeneration and repair,” said the company’s website.
Should they receive approval for their controversial trial, Bioquark will enlist 20 brain dead patients to run their experiments on. In the past, they attempted to begin this trial in India before it was shutdown by the Indian Council of Medical Research.
“Of course, many folks are asking the ‘what comes next?’ question,” Bioquark CEO Ira Pastor told Scientific American. “While full recovery in such patients is indeed a long term vision of ours, and a possibility that we foresee with continued work along this path, it is not the core focus or primary endpoint of this first protocol.”
Among the multiple concerns about this trial are that the brain dead subjects cannot give their consent to participate and that there is no clear plan as to what will happen should the company succeed in bringing their subjects to ‘minimal consciousness.’
Work in the area of the human brain is often fraught with these kinds of ethical concerns. Recently, The Guardian reported that scientists who have grown a human brain were being criticised because the ‘lumps’ of brain’ have been showing signs of spontaneous brain waves making it unclear whether they are sentient or not.
“If there’s even a possibility of the organoid being sentient, we could be crossing that line,” Elan Ohayon, the director of the Green Neuroscience Laboratory told The Guardian. “We don’t want people doing research where there is potential for something to suffer.”