Pig organs resurrect shortly after death

Image of a pig

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 they have successful in restoring blood flow and other cellular functions in pigs a good hour after death, as reported in the issue of ‘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 advanced technology has enabled this failure massive and permanent cell to occur. it doesn’t happen that fast.

Increase the availability of donor organs

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

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

First it was the brain

The research builds on an earlier Yale-led project that restored circulation and some cell function in the brain of a dead pig using 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 brain, an organ known to be most susceptible to ischemia, i.e. insufficient blood supply, we hypothesized that something similar could also be achieved in other transplantable vital organs“, he specifies.

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 all the pig.

The technology consists of an infusion device similar to cardiopulmonary bypass machines, which 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 in the whole body of the pig. Anesthetized pigs were treated with OrganEx one hour after induction of cardiac arrest.

Heart, liver and kidneys

Six hours after the OrganEx treatment, scientists discovered that certain key cellular functions were active in many areas of the pigs’ bodies, including the heart, liver and kidneys, and that the function of certain organs had been restored. For example, 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 surprised us.

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 They seemed functional.

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

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

However, the team was surprised to observe spontaneous and involuntary muscle movements in the head and neck when they tested the treated animals, which remained anesthetized throughout the experiment. These movements indicate the preservation of certain motor functions, notes Sestan.

Further studies needed

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

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, the 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. Can also be used for 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 Yale’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics. “However, we must maintain careful monitoring of all future studies, especially those involving brain perfusion.”

Reaction to a study showing a new method to restore cellular functions in pigs after they die (Nature*)

Rafael Matesanz, founder and former director general of the National Organization of Transplantation, told SMC Spain that “if what the authors of the article claim was correct and, indeed, the OrganEx method was found to be superior to the one that so far can be considered “gold standard” for many procedures (ECMO), we would find ourselves in front of a very interesting discovery when it comes to improving the procurement and preservation of organs for transplantation”.

Although he considers that “with the information provided in the text, it cannot be affirmed for the moment that this is the case and, obviously, this research needs to be confirmed and expanded“.

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