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Scientists revive cells of pigs an hour after death. Here's how

Amrutha Pagad
Amrutha PagadAug 04, 2022 | 10:02

Scientists revive cells of pigs an hour after death. Here's how

Researchers revived cells in dead Pigs. Representative Photo.

Researchers from Yale University in US found something extraordinary during an experiment; something that has the ability to change our perception of death. Pigs used in an experiment had died for about an hour. But this experiment seemed to reverse a very small part of what we know constitutes death. 

What do we really know about life and death? How are you alive today? Most of us will think on a macro level. We are alive because our heart is beating, pumping blood and oxygen throughout our body. Our brains are working properly as it is conscious. Our kidneys are doing their job and so are our lungs. 

But we are more than just the organs in our body. On a micro level, what is keeping us alive are the millions of cells in our body and the microbes. We are born as a result of cell division and we die as a result of cell death and the body's inability to replace the dying cells. 

It is often understood that cells start permanently dying during the process of death due to a lack of oxygen and nutrients required for their survival. 

BUT…

Researchers from Yale University found that cells in the dead pigs could still be revived hours after their death. It touches on the possible fact that cells don't really die as fast as we had assumed them to and perhaps the cellular damage could be corrected or even reversed. 

HOW? 

Researchers from Yale University conducted an experiment involving 100 pigs. Under anesthesia, the researchers induced heart attacks in the animals. The pigs died of cardiac arrest.

One hour later, the researchers plugged the animals to a system called OrganEx. The system pumped the bodies of the pigs with nutrient-rich fluid.

Six hours later, the researchers found that the hearts, brains, and livers in the dead pigs were still showing signs of life. The cells in these organs were still functional to a level. 

"These cells are functioning hours after they should not be," CNN quoted Dr. Nenad Sestan, Professor at Yale, who led the study.

These cells are functioning hours after they should not be.
- Dr Nenad Sestan

"And what this tells us is that the demise of cells can be halted. And their functionality restored in multiple vital organs. Even one hour after death," Dr Sestan told a news briefing.

...the demise of cells can be halted. And their functionality restored in multiple vital organs...
- Dr Nenad Sestan

Were the pigs brought back to life after death? NO.

While the revival of cells in dead pigs sounds like the animals were brought back to life, that is not true, in fact far from it. There were minute signs of life that were observed in the animals, which is not enough to bring the dead back to life. It isn't even enough to get the dead animal's organs ready for transplant after long hours. 

The technology is not that developed… yet. Scientists don't know how long and with how much force the dead would need to be hooked up to a system to induce efficient signs of life.

"We couldn't say that this study showed that any of the organs of this pig were ... ready for transplant into other animals, we don't know that they're all functioning… And we're nowhere near being able to say - Oh, my goodness, we've restored life not only to this pig but to any of the individual organs," coauthor Stephen Latham from Yale said. 

We couldn't say that this study showed that any of the organs of this pig were ... ready for transplant into other animals...
- Coauthor Stephen Latham

Why is this relevant? In the near future, this experiment sets a precedent for the future of organ transplants in humans. Researchers believe that if the technology can be mastered, we can use it to keep organs from donors alive and usable for long periods of time. This can address the grave shortage of donors and transplant organs around the world. 

"You could take the organ from a deceased donor, and hook it up to the perfusion technology, and perhaps then be able to transport it long distance over a long period of time to get it to a recipient who needs it," Latham explained.

You could take the organ from a deceased donor, and hook it up to the perfusion technology, and perhaps then be able to transport it long distance over a long period of time...
- Coauthor Stephen Latham

In the far future, who knows, perhaps we may be able to 'treat' heart attacks and strokes and even postpone death more than we are capable of now. It would be too far-fetched to say that sophisticated technology like this would enable us to bring the dead back from life. 

In 2019, the same team of researchers was able to prevent neural damage in the brains of dead pigs using a similar technology called BrainEx. The study was published in the journal Nature on August 3, 2022. 

Last updated: August 04, 2022 | 10:02
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