When the heart stops beating, all organs in the body also die quickly. But researchers from Yale University in the US have developed a method, OrganEx, that can bring dead organs back to life. The method involves pumping in synthetic blood together with a cocktail of substances that prevent cells from dying.
"All cells do not die at once, but it is a more protracted process and it is possible to intervene in that process to stop cell death and also restore some cell functions" says David Andrijevic, researcher at Yale and one of the researchers behind the study.
The researchers have tested the method on dead pigs. They started the treatment one hour after the heart stopped beating. Six hours after that, they were still able to measure cell activity in organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys.
"In a microscope, it was difficult to see the difference between healthy organs and those treated with OrganEx after death" says Zvonimir Vrselja, another of the researchers behind the study.
Now the idea is not to bring the dead back to life, but more to extend the time that surgeons have to extract organs for donation after a person's death. There is also the possibility that the method can be used to repair organs damaged in heart attacks or strokes.
Much more studies are needed before the method can be used on humans, but the researchers have high hopes.
"There are lots of potential uses for this exciting new technology. But we need to be very careful with the ethical aspect in future studies, especially when it comes to treating the brain" says Stephen Latham, director of the Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics.
Read the entire study here.