A group of scientists in the United States has managed to restore blood circulation and other cellular functions in pigs an hour after they died, according to a study published Wednesday in Nature. The research, carried out by experts at Yale University, shows that it is possible to slow down the rapid deterioration that the body undergoes after death, which could have useful applications to extend life.
The administration of a cell-protecting liquid specially designed for organs and tissues could, for example, keep organs that are being transplanted in good condition for longer, while expanding their availability, according to the authors in a statement.
“All cells do not die immediately, there are a series of more prolonged events. It is a process on which you can intervene, stop and restore some cellular functions”, explained one of the co-authors, David Andrijevic, from the Yale School of Medicine.
This work is based on a previous investigation (2019) with which they restored blood circulation and certain cellular functions in the brain of a dead pig through this new technology, which they called "BrainEx".
"If we were then able to restore some cellular functions in a dead brain, an organ known to be more susceptible to ischemia, we wondered if something similar could be achieved with other vital transplantable organs," Andrijevic explained.
For this latest study, the team again led by expert Nenad Sestan administered a modified version of "BrainEx", called "OrganEx", to the entire body of a pig, not just the brain.
This technology, they have pointed out, is made up of a perfusion machine, similar to those that mimic the work of the heart and lungs during transplants, and an experimental fluid that contains compounds that can maintain cell health and prevent inflammation throughout the body. of the pig.
Thus, the previously anesthetized animals were treated with "OrganEx" one hour after inducing cardiac arrest. Six hours later, the experts found that certain key cellular functions were still active in many areas of the pigs' bodies, such as the heart, liver and kidneys.
They also managed to restore some functions in the heart, where they detected evidence of electrical activity, with which this organ maintained its ability to contract.
"We were also able to restore circulation throughout the body, which surprised us," said Sestan, who points out that, normally, when the heart stops, the organs begin to swell and the collapse of the blood vessels blocks circulation. Nevertheless, he has observed, the organs of deceased pigs treated with "OrganEx" appeared to "work."
As was the case with the experiment carried out in 2019, the experts now found evidence that some areas of the brain recovered their cellular activity, although they did not detect organized electrical activity that would indicate the existence of consciousness.
In contrast, they did observe the presence of involuntary and spontaneous muscle movements in the animals' heads and necks, suggesting that they retained certain motor functions, Sestan said.