Based on preliminary studies involving pigs, scientists have discovered that after death, tissue deterioration can be stopped and cell activities can be restored. This discovery may one day assist to expand the amount of human organs that can be transplanted.
Using specialised equipment and a synthetic fluid containing oxygen and other elements that support cellular health and reduce inflammation, Yale researchers were able to restart the circulation in the anaesthetised animals’ hearts 60 minutes after the heart had stopped beating.
After six hours, the so-called OrganEx technology has treated some of the damage that is generally caused by oxygen deprivation when cardiac arrest stops blood flow, including organ enlargement and blood vessel failure, according to techcentral.co.za.
According to Yale University’s Zvonimir Vrselja, the findings suggest that the body is “not as dead as we previously imagined” after the heart stops beating. “We were able to demonstrate our ability to keep cells from perishing.”
Following the restoration of circulation, molecular and cellular repair, processes appeared to have started, according to genetic analyses of the tissues, the researchers wrote on Wednesday in the journal Nature.
OrganEx “maintained tissue integrity, lowered cell death, and restored specified molecular and cellular functions across numerous important organs” in comparison to extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), the standard treatment for regaining circulation.
The researchers reported that there was no indication of electrical activity in the pigs’ brains during the duration of the experiment.
By halting the harm that results when blood circulation stops, they believe that OrganEx will eventually permit increased use of organs recovered following withdrawal of life support in donors with severe, permanent brain injuries. These organs now perform worse following transplant than those obtained from brain-dead donors who are still receiving life support.
A ‘Reversible’ Form of Death? As part of a new study, Yale researchers restored some cell function in pigs 1hr after death, raising "tricky questions around life & death." @Nytimes interviews @parent_brendan, whose commentary was published in @Nature https://t.co/1TcbTUWABv pic.twitter.com/yUCuXhfrnx
— Population Health (@pophealthNYC) August 3, 2022
But that might be years from now.
According to Stephen Latham of Yale’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, the pig study conclusion “stops far short of stating that any organs were restored to the level of function” essential to maintain life.
The technology might one day be used to bring someone who has just passed away back to life. There would need to be a lot more experimentation, according to Latham, to do that. And you’d need to consider what condition a restored human being would be in.
Use in organ transplantation is a much more achievable goal, according to Latham. OrganEx’s potential application as a medicinal treatment “is going to be a long way off.”