Scientists have found a way to revive cells in dead pigs' organs, according to a new study that forces us to rethink how the body dies.
The scientists used a system called OrganEx that uses special pumps and solutions to restore oxygen in blood cells and prevent cell death throughout the body. The team restored the circulation and other functions in multiple organs an hour after the pigs' death from cardiac arrest, according to their peer-reviewed study in Nature journal on Wednesday.
From that, they saw that the heart had started pumping again.
The experiments conducted also showed results from a different project done by Yale students three years prior. It involved disembodied pigs' brains. The scientists used these results in a similar system called BrainEx as a way to restore the circulation in brains taken from pigs after they were killed in a meatpacking plant.
Could they apply this with a similar approach to the rest of the body?
The research challenges the old way of thinking that body cells and organs begin to be irreversibly destroyed within minutes of the heart stopping. Instead, it can be halted and their state can be shifted towards recovery, according to the study.
This study has a lot of potential to help reduce the amount of damage that is caused to people's brains after a stroke and maybe even hearts after a heart attack or cardiac arrest.
The greatest benefit might come in increasing the availability of donor organs for transplant lists.
Donor organs can be retrieved from people who are declared brain-dead. They are medically and legally dead while their hearts are still beating. But with a lot of new safety laws that protect against brain damage that can lead to brain-dead, a lot fewer people are dying from it.
Now, there is something called "donation after circulatory death" donors. They are typically people on life support with a not-so-good prognosis to where they are taken off of slide support. Once the heart stops beating, the doctors are legally required to wait five minutes before they declare death and retrieve the donated organs. The organs deteriorate quickly due to a lack of blood supply and oxygen so surgeons have to move quickly.
OrganEx gives the surgeons more time to retrieve the organs.
The study was done by inducing cardiac arrests in pigs and treating them using OrganEx technology within an hour of their death. They were compared to pigs that were on ECMO, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, a machine that pumps the pig’s own oxygenated blood throughout the body.
The study's analysis takes a comprehensive resource of cell-type-specific changes during the recirculation of blood cells and perfusion interventions spanning multiple organs. They show potential for cellular recovery after the body dies for a certain extended period of time.