A groundbreaking experiment that managed to bring the hearts of dead pigs back to life could lead to an incredible breakthrough in medicine.
A team of researchers has been able to bring a dead pigs heart back to life and challenge the boundaries we set around death.
In most countries a person is pronounced legally dead either after brain activity stops or when their heart and lungs cease working.
However, this experiment was able to get a pigs heart up and running again an hour after death, challenging the idea that the threshold by which we measure death is irreversible.
The animals were hooked up to a system called OrganEx, which pumped blood and a solution containing 13 compounds such as anticoagulants through their hearts, Nature reports.
They found that this slowed down decomposition of the dead tissue to the point that the heart began contracting again, while there was also activity detected in the liver and kidneys.
Yale University neuroscientist Zvonimir Vrselja, who participated in the experiment, said: “We made cells do something they weren’t able to do. We’re not saying it’s clinically relevant, but it’s moving in the right direction.”
This could have a groundbreaking impact on medicine if it works on human organs too, as it could help preserve them for transplants or even keep people alive long enough for a medical emergency to be treated.
However, it poses all sorts of difficult ethical questions around blurring the lines on death, which could have an impact on people who require life support.
Dr Anders Sandberg of the University of Oxford told The Independent this experiment challenges current decisions over ‘when radical life support is just futile’.
He warned that finding more ways to technically keep a body alive without being able to revive them would pose difficult questions for doctors.
Back in 2019 the same team of scientists managed to revive pigs brains four hours after death, though the experiment didn’t restore consciousness.
Researchers suggested that a jolt of electricity to the brain might have been needed to get it up and running properly again, but actually restoring consciousness to a dead brain is something else entirely.
However, anyone thinking these experiments are a ticket to coming back from the dead should be aware that it’s nowhere near ready for human testing, particularly since the brain would have to be outside the body to be hooked up to the device.
They might one day be able to bring your brain back from the dead but that won’t do you much good if it’s been scooped out of your skull.