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"Mind Blowing" Restoration of Organic Function in Dead Pig

16 August 2022
Giulio Prisco


Scientists at Yale University have restored blood circulation and other cellular functions in pigs a full hour after their deaths. After death, biochemical events triggered by a lack of blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients begin to destroy a body's cells and organs. But the Yale scientists have found ways to slow down this process.

A research paper is published in Nature. It reports that, one hour after death, the application of a technology dubbed OrganEx to dead laboratory pigs “preserved tissue integrity, decreased cell death and restored selected molecular and cellular processes across multiple vital organs.”

Six hours after treatment with OrganEx, the scientists found that certain key cellular functions were active in many areas of the pigs' bodies, including in the heart, liver, and kidneys. And some organ function had been restored. For instance, they found evidence of electrical activity in the heart, which retained the ability to contract.

"We were also able to restore circulation throughout the body, which amazed us," says research leader Nenad Sestan in a press release issued by Yale University.

"Under the microscope, it was difficult to tell the difference between a healthy organ and one which had been treated with OrganEx technology after death," says researcher Zvonimir Vrselja.

OrganEX is built on a technology dubbed BrainEX, developed by the same Yale scientists. Previously in 2019, the application of BrainEx had restored circulation and certain cellular functions in the brain of a dead pig.

OrganEX, a modified version of BrainEX, consists of a perfusion device similar to heart-lung machines and an experimental fluid. The fluid contains compounds that promote cellular health and suppress inflammation throughout the body.

The first applications of this new technology could permit extending the health of human organs during surgery and expanding the availability of donor organs. “The goal isn’t to build a new-age Frankenstein,” notes SingularityHub. “Rather, it’s to help with the current organ transplant shortage and health emergencies caused by constricted blood flow.” Yet, of course, the possibility of more ambitious applications jumps immediately to mind.

Nature has published an open access commentary on the research paper. Neuroethicist Nita Farahany says that the findings are stunning. “Although this study is preliminary, she says it suggests that some perceived limitations of the human body might be overcome in time.”

The New York Times reports that Yale University has filed for a patent on the BrainEX and OrganEX technology. The next step, according to Sestan, will be to see if the organs function properly and could be successfully transplanted. “Some time after that, the researchers hope to test whether the method can repair damaged hearts or brains.” 

“It’s unbelievable, mind blowing,” said Farahany as reported by The New York Times. She added that the work raises questions about the definition of death. But the technology, a Yale bioethicist emphasized, is “very far away from use in humans.”

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