It may seem a bit creepy, nightmarish or even bordering on Dr Frankenstein but this is real. Scientists are going to attempt to bring parts of the central nervous system (CNS) of brain dead people back to life.
An American biotech company has been granted ethical permission to recruit 20 patients who have been declared clinically dead from a traumatic brain injury, for the amazing trial.
Scientists from Bioquark are planning to use various therapies, which include injecting the brain with stem cells and a cocktail of amino acids, as well as deploying lasers and nerve stimulation techniques which have been shown to bring patients out of comas. They hope that their findings will lead to the development of new therapies for degenerative CNS diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
On The Telegraph newspaper’s website, Science Editor Sarah Knapton writes:
Trial participants will have been certified dead and only kept alive through life support. They will be monitored for several months using brain imaging equipment to look for signs of regeneration, particularly in the upper spinal cord – the lowest region of the brain stem which controls independent breathing and heartbeat.
The team believes that the brain stem cells may be able to erase their history and re-start life again, based on their surrounding tissue – a process seen in the animal kingdom in creatures like salamanders who can regrow entire limbs.
Ira Pastor, the CEO of Bioquark Inc said: “This represents the first trial of its kind and another step towards the eventual reversal of death in our lifetime.
“We just received approval for our first 20 subjects and we hope to start recruiting patients immediately from this first site – we are working with the hospital now to identify families where there may be a religious or medical barrier to organ donation.
“To undertake such a complex initiative, we are combining biologic regenerative medicine tools with other existing medical devices typically used for stimulation of the central nervous system, in patients with other severe disorders of consciousness.
“We hope to see results within the first two to three months.”
The ReAnima Project has just received approach from an Institutional Review Board at the National Institutes of Health in the US and the team plans to start recruiting patients immediately.
The first stage, named ‘First In Human Neuro-Regeneration & Neuro-Reanimation’ will be a non-randomised, single group ‘proof of concept’ and will take place at Anupam Hospital in Rudrapur, Uttarakhand, India.
Brain stem death is when a person no longer has any brain stem functions, and has permanently lost the potential for consciousness and the capacity to breathe.
A person is confirmed as being dead when their brain stem function is permanently lost.
However, although brain dead humans are technically no longer alive, their bodies can often still circulate blood, digest food, excrete waste, balance hormones, grow, sexually mature, heal wounds, spike a fever, and gestate and deliver a baby.
Recent studies have also suggested that some electrical activity and blood flow continues after brain cell death, just not enough to allow for the whole body to function.
And while human beings lack substantial regenerative capabilities in the central nervous system, many non-human species, such as amphibians and certain fish, can repair, regenerate and remodel substantial portions of their brain and brain stem even after critical life-threatening trauma.
“Through our study, we will gain unique insights into the state of human brain death, which will have important connections to future therapeutic development for other severe disorders of consciousness, such as coma, and the vegetative and minimally conscious states, as well as a range of degenerative CNS conditions, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease,” added Dr Sergei Paylian, Founder, President, and Chief Science Officer of Bioquark Inc.
Is this an encouraging development or is it rather like the worst horror story around?