They manage to ‘resurrect’ organs from dead pigs, a breakthrough that could improve organ donation

  • “They were able to restore blood flow and other cellular functions in pigs,” according to ‘Nature’

  • The technology developed has allowed this massive and permanent cellular failure not to occur so quickly.

  • “Not all cells die immediately, but there is a more prolonged series of events,” the authors explain.

A team of scientists from Yale University (USA) has developed a new technology that provides a cell protection liquid specially designed for organs and tissues, with which successfully restored blood flow and other cellular functions in pigs a good hour after his death, as reported by the edition Nature magazine.

Minutes after the heart’s last beat, a cascade of biochemical events triggered by a lack of blood flow, oxygen and nutrients begins to destroy cells and organs in the body, but the technology developed allowed this massive and permanent cellular failure to occur so quickly.

The findings could help prolong the health of human organs during surgery and expand the availability of donor organs, the authors say.

Not all cells die immediately, but there is a more prolonged series of events said David Andrijevic, associate researcher in neuroscience at the Yale School of Medicine and co-author of the study. It is a process in which you can intervene, stop and restore certain cellular functions.”

The research builds on an earlier Yale-led project that restored circulation and some cellular functions in the brain of a dead pig with a technology called BrainEx. Published in 2019, the study was led by Yale’s lab Nenad Sestan, Harvey and Kate Cushing Professor of Neuroscience and Professor of Comparative Medicine, Genetics and Psychiatry.

“If we were able to restore certain cellular functions in the dead brainan organ known to be most susceptible to ischemiai.e. insufficient blood supply, we hypothesized that something similar could also be achieved in other vital transplantable organs,” he says.

In the new study, a team led by lead author Sestan — along with colleagues Andrijevic, Zvonimir Vrselja, Taras Lysyy and Shupei Zhang, all from Yale — applied a modified version of BrainEx called OrganEx to the whole pig.

The technology consists of an infusion device similar to cardiopulmonary bypass machines, that do the work of the heart and lungs during surgery, and an experimental fluid that contains compounds that may promote cellular health and suppress inflammation throughout the pig’s body. Anesthetized pigs were treated with OrganEx one hour after induction of cardiac arrest.

Six hours after the OrganEx treatment, scientists found that some key cellular functions were active in many parts of the pigs’ bodies, including the heart, liver and kidneys, and that the function of some organs had been restored. For example, they found evidence of electrical activity in the heart, which retained the ability to contract.

Circulation throughout the body could also be restored

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

Normally, when the heart stops beating, the organs begin to swell, collapsing blood vessels and blocking circulation, he explains. However, organs from deceased pigs that had received the OrganEx treatment appeared to be functional.

“Under the microscope, it was difficult to distinguish between a healthy organ and one that had been treated with OrganEx technology after his death,” says Vrselja.

As in the 2019 experiment, the researchers also found that cellular activity was restored in certain areas of the brain, but no organized electrical activity indicative of consciousness was detected during any part of the experiment.

Without embargo, eThe team was surprised to observe involuntary and spontaneous muscle movements in areas of the head and neck when evaluating the treated animals, which remained anesthetized throughout the experiment. These movements indicate the preservation of certain motor functions, notes Sestan.

The researchers emphasize that further studies will be needed to understand the apparent restoration of motor functions in animals, and that rigorous ethical review by other scientists and bioethicists is needed.

The experimental protocols were approved by the Yale Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee and guided by an external ethics and advisory committee.

According to the authors, OrganEx technology could have several potential applications. For example, the treatment could extend the lifespan of organs in human patients and expand the availability of donor organs for transplantation. It could also be used to help treat organs or tissues damaged by ischemia in heart attacks or strokes.

“There are many potential applications for this exciting new technology,” says Stephen Latham, director of the Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics. “.

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