OrganEx team successfully revived dead pig’s organs an hour post mortem. Whole body perfusion system restored cellular activity and show promise for cryonics.
Researchers were able to restore cells and organs in pigs an hour after the animals’ death by cardiac arrest, using a special machine that pumps blood and other fluids around the body. This feat holds the potential to one day increase the number of human organs available for transplants.
The researchers challenge the idea that cardiac death is irreversible by restoring circulation and cellular activity in vital organs of pigs, such as the heart and brain, one hour after the animals died. The work follows 2019 experiments by the same scientists in which they revived the disembodied brains of pigs four hours after the animals died.
The researchers' findings are "stunning", says Nita Farahany, a neuroethicist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Although this study is preliminary, she suggests that it raises the possibility that some perceived limitations of the human body might be overcome with time and further research.
Reviving a Pig
The OrganEx team connected the pigs' circulatory systems to a machine that pumps a mixture of blood and nutrients around the body. The team found that, even after being anesthetized and euthanized, cells in all of the major organs survived and exhibited signs of cellular repair. This was compared with three control groups of animals that were measured at various time points after death, with the OrganEx team's animals faring better.
The system, adapted from an earlier model called BrainEx, was more effective in restoring circulation than a heart-lung bypass device known as an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine, the team wrote. In the new study, the experimental pigs were compared with three control groups of animals that were measured at various time points after death.
While none of the pigs showed any sign of brain activity, this was because a neuronal suppressant was used in the fluid to reduce inflammation.
Implications for Cryonics
The implications for Cryonics while indirect, is broad. The main challenge of cryonics isn't the freezing part. In fact, vitrification for even large organs have been accomplished successfully. In state of the art cryopreservation of an entire human body, fast freezing to liquid nitrogen temperatures, along with cryoprotectants, means minimal ice damage.
The main challenge is the chemical and mechanical process of restarting an organism after clinical death, especially after many minutes of "room temperature" time has passed. The OrganEx demonstration with pigs clearly shows that the same revival protocol used on these pigs show promise for cryopreservation revival.
The next step of application of this for cryonics would naturally be to run an alternate experiment, one that might be even more successful than the above. Instead of having the pigs be dead for an hour under warm temperature conditions, instead cool the pigs down to near freezing, or even below freezing. Use the same protocol and extend the time to 24 hours. A well known chemical law, the Arrhenius equation, says time is about 1000x slower at 4C than at 37C. These cool conditions could yield a pig that is clinically dead for months.
A Roadmap for Cryonics Revival
The potential for cryonics is to use the OrganEx protocol on humans who have been clinically dead for days, weeks or even months. The first step would be to revive a human after 24 hours of being cooled down to near freezing temperatures (4C). Then try 48 hours, then 72 hours and so forth.
By attempting a revival at each of these time points, we would quickly learn what is the maximum amount of time a human can be clinically dead before being revived. This information would help set realistic expectations for those considering cryonics.
The goal is to eventually revive humans who have been clinical dead for years or even decades. The hope is that with medical advances, such as nanotechnology and regenerative medicine, it will one day be possible to not only revive but also cure patients of whatever ailments they were suffering from before being cryopreserved.
In the meantime, this experiment with pigs is a major step forward and gives hope that one day humans will be able to benefit from this technology as well.
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