When the heart stops beating, the organs swell, collapsing the blood vessels and blocking circulation. In turn, the abrupt stoppage of the flow of oxygen and nutrients leads to deterioration and cell death, which run out of fuel. In this way, the organs stop working quickly. It is precisely for this reason that one must act very quickly to carry out a transplant in which the donor is a deceased person. But what if that degeneration of cells after death could be prevented or at least postponed? This proposal, almost typical of a Mary Shelley novel, was made by a team of scientists from the Yale University. And the best thing is that, in a way, they managed it, by restoring part of the life to the organs of dead pigs.
These researchers already made all kinds of headlines in 2019, when they managed to restore circulation and some cell functions in the brain of dead pigs. Naturally, the news was exaggerated and people began to talk about the resurrection of the dead. That was not what they did, but it was still a great discovery, which they have now taken much further, repeating their feat in the rest of the organs of these animals.
They tell it in a study, published today in Nature. It describes both the mechanism they followed and the results. Some were within expectations, but others they were pleasantly surprised. And it is that they managed to restore even some functions that they did not previously imagine.
Restoring the cells of dead pigs
In 2019, these Yales University scientists achieved restore some functions of the brain cells of dead pigs thanks to the infusion of a experimental liquid. This included a cocktail of everything necessary to recover the functions that are lost after death. Since anticoagulants until cytoprotectorspassing through other substances such as hemoglobin, which is involved in the transport of oxygen in cells. In addition, it contains some compounds that help suppress an intense inflammatory response which is also involved in cell deterioration after death.
With this compound, which they named BrainEx, the unimaginable was achieved. It was especially interesting, since the brain is an organ very prone to cellular stress caused by inadequate blood supply, called ischemia. If they had been able to with him, why not with the rest of the organism?
During these three years they have matured that idea, giving shape to the study that is presented today. It describes how his work was with OrganExan improved version of the liquid that they used only for the brain.
First, it caused heart attack pigs under anesthesia. The animals were then hooked up to a machine that mimics the effects of already stopped lungs and hearts. It is similar to machines ECMO used with patients awaiting a transplant. Once the process was finished, six hours were allowed to pass, after which its incredible effects were verified.
much more than expected
The effects on the brain of the dead pigs were similar to those of 2019. That is, the function of some of its cells was recovered, but there was no electrical activity that could indicate consciousness.
On the other hand, many essential cellular functions that would already have been lost without treatment remained intact. Even some organs like kidneys, liver and heart they had regained some of their functionality.
What they saw in the latter was especially interesting, as there was evidence of electrical activity and still kept the ability to contract. In addition, blood circulation in absolutely the entire body was restored. There was even involuntary muscle movements at the level of the head and neck!
In short, if they tried to look under a microscope at cells from a healthy organ and another from the same organ treated with OrganEx, there were practically no differences.
What is all this for?
As in 2019, it is important to note that the intention of these scientists is not to resurrect the dead.
But they can help prevent a large number of deaths. And, thanks to OrganEx, you can greatly extend the durability of the organs before a transplant. Now they have done it with dead pigs, but the intention is to extrapolate it to humans in the future.
In addition, as explained in a statement, they believe that all this “could help treat organs or tissues damaged by ischemia during heart attacks or strokes”. The range of possibilities is immense, although there is still a lot of work ahead. Bringing the dead back to life is still far beyond the reach of science, but this seemed almost as unattainable years ago and now we see that it was possible. Reality, by virtue of being reality, will always be much more fascinating than fiction.