Scientists announced Wednesday they will have restored blood circulation and cell function through the entire bodies of pigs which were dead for one hour, in a breakthrough experts say could mean we have to update this is of death itself.
The discovery raised hopes for a variety of future medical uses in humans, probably the most immediate being that it might help organs go longer, potentially saving the lives of a large number of people worldwide looking for transplants.
Nonetheless it may possibly also spur debate concerning the ethics of such proceduresparticularly after a few of the ostensibly dead pigs startled the scientists by making sudden head movements through the experiment.
The US-based team stunned the scientific community in 2019 by managing to revive cell function in the brains of pigs hours once they have been decapitated.
For the most recent research, published in the journal Nature, the team sought to expand this system to the complete body.
They induced a coronary attack in the anesthetized pigs, which stopped blood flowing through the bodies.
This deprives your body’s cells of oxygenand without oxygen, cells in mammals die.
The pigs then sat dead for one hour.
‘Demise of cells could be halted’
The scientists then pumped the bodies with a liquid containing the pigs’ own blood, in addition to a synthetic type of hemoglobinthe protein that carries oxygen in red blood cellsand drugs that protect cells and stop blood clots.
Blood started circulating again and several cells began functioning including in vital organs like the heart, liver and kidney, for another six hours of the experiment.
“These cells were functioning hours once they shouldn’t have beenwhat this tells us is that the demise of cells could be halted,” Nenad Sestan, the study’s senior author and a researcher at Yale University, told journalists.
Co-lead author David Andrijevic, also from Yale, told AFP the team hopes the technique, called OrganEx, “may be used to salvage organs”.
OrganEx may possibly also make new types of surgery possible since it creates “more medical wiggle room in cases without circulation to repair things,” said Anders Sandberg of Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute.
The technique may potentially also be utilized to resuscitate people. However this may increase the threat of bringing back patients to a spot where they’re struggling to live without life supporttrapped on which is named the “bridge to nowhere,” Brendan Parent, a bioethicist at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, said in a linked comment in Nature.
Could death be treatable?
Sam Parnia of the NYU Grossman School of Medicine said it had been “a remarkable and intensely significant study”.
It showed that death had not been monochrome but instead a “biological process that remains treatable and reversible all night after it has occurred”, he said.
Benjamin Curtis, a philosopher centered on ethics at the UK’s Nottingham Trent University, said this is of death might need updating since it hinges on the idea of irreversibility.
“This research implies that many processes that people thought were irreversible aren’t actually irreversible, and so forth the existing medical definition of death an individual might not be truly dead until hours after their bodily processes have stopped,” he told AFP.
“Indeed, there could be bodies lying in morgues at this time that haven’t yet ‘died’, if we take the existing definition as valid.”
Through the experiment, virtually all the OrganEx pigs made powerful movements making use of their head and neck, said Stephen Latham, a Yale ethicist and study co-author.
“It had been quite startling for individuals in the area,” he told journalists.
He emphasized that although it had not been known what caused the movement, at no point was any electrical activity recorded in the pigs’ brains, showing they never regained consciousness after death.
While there is a “little burst” on the EEG machine measuring brain activity during the movement, Latham said that has been probably due to the shifting of the top affecting the recording.
However Curtis said the movement was a “major concern” because recent neuroscience research has suggested that “conscious experience can continue even though electrical activity in the mind can’t be measured”.
“So it’s possible that technique did actually cause the topic pigs to suffer, and would cause humans to suffer were it to be utilized in it,” he added, calling for more research.
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