Scientists have partially revived a pig’s organs an hour after death.
The discovery has been described as “truly remarkable” and experts say that if the technology is applied to humans, it could make thousands more organs available for transplant – potentially saving thousands of lives. .
One observer even suggested that in the future the technology would be capable of “reviving people hours after death” to give doctors critical time to treat the underlying cause.
Researchers in the US developed a specially designed cell-protecting fluid that appeared to prevent cell and organ death for at least an hour.
After death, the lack of blood flow, oxygen and nutrients triggers a series of biochemical events that lead to the destruction of body cells and organs.
The damage was thought to be rapid and permanent, but scientists found that when a new fluid called OrganEx was injected into pigs, blood circulation and other cell functions could be restored within hours of death.
If the discovery is replicated in humans, it could potentially lead to a major expansion of the number of organs that can be used for transplants, the Yale University researchers said.
In the UK alone, around 429 people died last year waiting for an organ transplant.
Researchers did a similar experiment in 2019 on the brain of a pig, but now they have applied the technology to the whole body.
The technology consists of a device similar to a heart-lung machine — which mimics the heart and lungs during surgery — and an experimental fluid containing compounds that can promote cellular health and inflammation throughout the pig’s body. can press
Writing in the journal Nature, the researchers said that after six hours of treatment with OrganEx, certain important cellular functions were active in many parts of the pigs’ bodies – including the heart, liver and kidneys.
They also found that some organ function was restored – for example, they found evidence of electrical activity in the heart, which retained the ability to contract.
“We were able to restore circulation throughout the body, which surprised us,” said Professor Nenad Sistan.
By developing this system of organ preservation (in humans), in the near future doctors will be able to provide new treatments for post-mortem organ preservation.
He said that usually when the heart stops beating, organs begin to swell, blood vessels break and circulation becomes obstructed.
But blood circulation was restored and the organs of dead pigs that received the treatment appeared functional at the cellular and tissue level.
“Under the microscope, it was difficult to tell the difference between a healthy organ and an organ treated with OrganEx technology after death,” said Associate Research Scientist Zvonimir Varselja.
The team also observed involuntary and spontaneous muscle movements in the head and neck regions when they examined the treated animals, indicating preservation of some motor function.
In the future, this technology could potentially be used to extend the lifespan of organs in human patients and allow more organ donations.
Commenting on the study, Dr Sam Parnia from the New York University Grossman School of Medicine said: “This is a truly remarkable and incredibly important study.
“This shows that after death, cells in mammalian organs (including humans) such as the brain do not die for several hours, well into the post-mortem period.
“Consequently, by developing this system of organ preservation (in humans), in the near future doctors will be able to provide new treatments for post-mortem preservation of organs.
“This will make many more organs available for transplant, saving thousands of lives every year.
“Perhaps just as important is the fact that the OrganEx method can be used to preserve organs from people who have died, but in whom the underlying cause of death is treatable.
“Today, that would include athletes who die suddenly of heart failure, those who die of massive bleeding after trauma such as drowning, heart attacks or car accidents.
“The OrganEx system can preserve organs and prevent brain damage in people for hours after death. This will give doctors time to fix the underlying condition – such as a blocked heart attack.” vessel that caused a heart attack and death, or repair of a ruptured blood vessel that caused death from massive bleeding after trauma, restoring organ function and death in such people. Resurrect several hours later.
“Thus, otherwise healthy people, including athletes who die, but in whom the cause of death is treatable at any time, can potentially be resuscitated, and if the cause of death is not treatable , so their organs are saved to give life to thousands of people every year.