Pork organs partially revived by scientists one hour after death

Scientists partially revived pig organs an hour after death.

The discovery was described as “truly remarkable” and experts said that if the technology could be applied to humans, it could lead to thousands of organs being made available for transplant – potentially saving thousands of lives.

One commentator even suggested that in the future, the technology has the potential to “bring people back to life many hours after death”, providing doctors with crucial time to treat the underlying cause.

US researchers developed a specially designed cell-protective fluid that appeared to prevent cell and organ death for at least an hour.

After death, a series of biochemical events take place due to lack of blood flow, oxygen and nutrients that lead to the destruction of the body’s cells and organs.

The damage was thought to be quick and permanent, but the scientists found that when the new fluid, called OrganEx, was applied to pigs, blood circulation and other cellular functions could be restored in the hours after death.

The Yale University researchers said that if the finding were replicated in humans, it could lead to a huge expansion in the number of organs that can be used for transplantation.

In the UK alone, around 429 people died while waiting for an organ transplant last year.

The researchers performed a similar experiment in 2019 on a pig brain, but have now applied the technology to the entire body.

The technology consists of a device similar to heart-lung machines – which do the work of the heart and lungs during surgery, and experimental fluid that contains compounds that can promote cellular health and suppress inflammation throughout the pig’s body.

Writing in the journal Nature, the researchers said that six hours after treatment with OrganEx, certain important cellular functions were active in many areas of the pigs’ body – including the heart, liver and kidneys.

They also found that some organ functions were restored – for example, they found evidence of electrical activity in the heart, which maintained its ability to contract.

“We were also able to restore circulation throughout the body, which surprised us,” said Professor Nenad Sestan.

Normally, when the heart stops beating, the organs start to swell, collapsing blood vessels and blocking circulation, he said.

But circulation was restored and organs from the dead pigs that received the treatment appeared to be functional at the cellular and tissue level.

“Under the microscope, it was difficult to tell the difference between a healthy organ and one that had been treated with OrganEx technology after death,” said research associate Zvonimir Vrselja.

The team also observed involuntary and spontaneous muscle movements in the head and neck region when evaluating the treated animals, which indicated the preservation of some motor function.

In the future, the technology could be used to extend the lifespan of organs in human patients and lead to more organ donations.

Commenting on the study, Dr. Sam Parnia of the New York University Grossman School of Medicine said: “This is a truly remarkable and incredibly significant study.

“This demonstrates that after death, cells in mammalian (including human) organs, such as the brain, do not die for many hours, this is well into the post-mortem period.

The research was carried out in swine organs (Joe Giddens/PA)

“Consequently, by developing this organ preservation system (in humans), in the near future doctors will be able to provide new treatments to preserve post-mortem organs.

“This will allow access to many more organs for transplantation, which will result in thousands of lives saved every year.

“Perhaps just as important is the fact that the OrganEx method can be used to preserve organs in people who have died but in whom the underlying cause of death remains treatable.

“Today, that includes athletes who die suddenly from a heart defect, people who die from drowning, heart attacks or massive bleeding after trauma like car accidents.

“The OrganEx system can preserve these people’s organs and prevent brain damage for hours in people after death. This will give doctors time to correct the underlying condition – such as a blocked blood vessel in the heart that led to a massive heart attack and death, or repair a ruptured blood vessel that led to death from massive bleeding after trauma, restore organ function, and bring these people back to life many hours after death.

“Thus, healthy people, including athletes who die but whose cause of death is treatable at a given time, can potentially be brought back to life, and if the cause of death is not treatable, their organs can be preserved to give life. thousands of people every year.”

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