Scientists restored dead pigs' cell function and heartbeats, blurring the line between life and death
· Yale neuroscientists restored some cellular function, heartbeat, and blood flow in dead pigs, they said Wednesday.
· The discovery shows that intervention can stop cells from dying and preserve organs after death.
· The new technology could lead to more organs for transplant, and may someday help reverse death.
Morgan McFall-Johnsen, Business Insider
via Yahoo News - August 3, 2022
In a feat that blurs the boundary between life and death, researchers at Yale School of Medicine have restored some cell function in the organs of dead pigs. The achievement, which was published in Nature on Wednesday, ignites hopes for future medical breakthroughs that could save thousands of lives.
One hour after death, researchers connected pigs to a system of pumps, heaters, and fillers called OrganEx. By artificially flushing the pigs' organs with blood — a process called perfusion — they restored molecular and cellular function in the heart, brain, liver and kidneys.
The hearts even contracted to pump blood, indicating renewed electrical activity, and restored full blood circulation in the pigs' bodies. There was no sign of electrical activity in the brain. Still, the scientists say they've uncovered a previously unknown capacity for mammal cells to recover after blood has stopped flowing.
"Cells actually don't die as quickly as we assumed that they do, which basically opens up the possibility for intervention," Zvonimir Vrselja, a neuroscientist on the research team at Yale, said in a press briefing. "If properly intervened, we can maybe tell them not to die."
Unlocking that ability could allow clinicians to preserve more human organs for donation after death, reducing the transplant-organ shortage and saving thousands of lives. The new technology could also revolutionize life-support treatment. Some researchers said the discovery could even pave the way for bringing people back to life hours after death.
"Death is not an instantaneous event, but rather a gradual process, and we have gained a further tool to nudge it," Anders Sandberg, a neuroscientist at the University of Oxford Future of Humanity Institute, who was unaffiliated with the study, said in a statement.
The same research group previously developed a perfusion system called BrainEx. In 2019, that system restored some structure and function in the brains of dead pigs four hours after they'd been decapitated.
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