According to the Nature article, Yale’s research team used the OrganEx system – consisting of a device similar to the heart-lung machines used in surgery and the experimental mixture of fluids that promotes cell health and reduces inflammation – in pigs an hour after they had lost their pulse.
Another group of dead pigs was given ECMO, a life-support measure that oxygenates the blood outside the body. At the end of the six-hour trial, the scientists found that the OrganEx technology was able to deliver “sufficient levels of oxygen” to the pigs’ entire bodies, thereby enhancing certain key cellular functions in organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys. kidneys were restored. .
“Under the microscope, it was difficult to tell the difference between a healthy organ and one that had been treated with OrganEx technology after death,” said Zvonimir Vrselja, a neuroscientist at the Yale School of Medicine who participated in the study. a press release.
However, the dead pigs hooked up to ECMO machines were not getting oxygen in their blood supply. Their bodies were left stiff with rigor mortis, unlike those on OrganEx.
Another striking result of the experiment — a result that also surprised the Yale team — was involuntary movement in the head and neck areas of the dead pigs hooked up to the OrganEx system. This was an indication that some motor functions had been preserved, Nenad Sestan, one of the study’s authors, said in the press release.
Thousands of lives depend on a transplant network in need of ‘major restructuring’
The OrganEx study builds on a 2019 project from Yale’s medical school that restored some cellular functions in pig brains four hours after the animals were decapitated.
“Such research suggests that death doesn’t happen at a certain point in time,” said Nathan Emmerich, an Australian National University bioethicist who is not affiliated with Yale studies. Instead, he explained, death occurs over time as the processes that keep an organism alive gradually cease — and the new findings suggest that some of the damage caused by the loss of those functions may be reversed. be restored.
“The results of this study probably won’t allow us to revive just anyone, but in certain circumstances they could help us save a limited number of people,” Emmerich said.
Yale’s team of researchers underlined the importance of future research, as well as input from bioethics experts. Emmerich foresees many challenges before technologies such as OrganEx can be used in humans. For example, they need to demonstrate the ability to revive organisms, rather than just cell functions, he said, adding that laws governing organ transplants should also adapt to evolving definitions of death.
British parents lose fight to continue livelihood for 12-year-old in coma
With the advent of modern life support technology, such as ventilators, medical workers are faced with difficult decisions that sometimes painfully conflict with the wishes of patients’ families. This week, Britain’s Supreme Court ruled against the parents of 12-year-old Archie Battersbee, a boy who is on life support after catastrophic brain damage. The judges sided with Battersbee’s doctors, arguing that it is not in the boy’s best interests to continue life-sustaining treatment if he is brain dead.