Scientists revived organ cells in dead pigs

Medical science is nowhere near overcoming death, but it may be getting closer to delaying damage from dying and severely damaged organs. The New York Times reports that Yale University researchers have successfully revived cells in the organs of pigs that had been dead in the lab for an hour. Hearts started beating and the pigs’ bodies didn’t stiffen like they normally would.

The team mixed the animals’ blood and an artificial hemoglobin with OrganEx, a solution containing anti-inflammatory drugs, nerve blockers (to prevent a return to consciousness), nutrients and drugs to combat cell death. The project is a follow-up to a years-long breakthrough in which scientists revived the brain cells of dead pigs using a precursor solution, BrainEx. After this discovery, the group wondered if they could revive an entire body.

The work is nowhere near helping human patients. Further studies will show whether the organs are functioning. Researchers also need to assess the effects of OrganEx without nerve blockers and eventually test their work on humans. There are ethical concerns that pigs might regain their brain function, and it’s not clear when it would make sense to experiment on humans. If synthetic blood isn’t ready for emergency rooms, that’s a long way off.

However, the impact could be huge if solutions like OrganEx are made for humans. They could extend the viability of organ transplants – it could be possible to collect healthy organs long after death. That in turn could make more transplants available and save additional lives. The technology could also limit organ damage after severe heart attacks and strokes. Ideally, this gives people a chance to recover from potentially fatal conditions.

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