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Medical breakthrough: Scientists partially revive cells in dead pigs' organs

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Medical breakthrough: Scientists partially revive cells in dead pigs organs
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In a potential organ transplant breakthrough, a team of scientists partially revived pig organs an hour after death.

In the study published on Wednesday (August 3) in the scientific journal Nature, researchers at Yale University announced that they used new technology to restore cells and bring the animals' cells back to function.

As per several media reports, researchers have restored circulation and cellular activity in the vital organs of pigs, such as the heart and brain, one hour after the animals died.

Researchers connected pigs that had been dead for one hour to a system called OrganEx that pumped a blood substitute throughout the animals' bodies. The solution — containing the animals' blood and 13 compounds such as anticoagulants — slowed the decomposition of the bodies and quickly restored some organ function, such as heart contraction and activity in the liver and kidney. Although OrganEx helped to preserve the integrity of some brain tissue, researchers did not observe any coordinated brain activity that would indicate the animals had regained any consciousness or sentience.

The research challenges the idea that cardiac death — which occurs when blood circulation and oxygenation stop — is irreversible, and raises ethical questions about the definition of death. The work follows 2019 experiments by the same scientists in which they revived the disembodied brains of pigs four hours after the animals died, calling into question the idea that brain death is final.

The finding has been described as "truly remarkable" and experts said that if the technology could be applied to humans it could lead to thousands more organs being made available for transplant -potentially saving thousands of lives.

One commentator even suggested that in the future the technology has the potential to "bring people back to life many hours after death" by providing medics crucial time to treat the underlying cause.

The latest experiments are "stunning", says Nita Farahany, neuroethicist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Although this study is preliminary, she says it suggests that some perceived limitations of the human body might be overcome in time.

The authors warn that these results do not show that the pigs have somehow been reanimated after death, especially in the absence of electrical activity in the brain. "We made cells do something they weren't able to do" when the animals were dead, says team member Zvonimir Vrselja, a neuroscientist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. "We're not saying it's clinically relevant, but it's moving in the right direction."

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TAGS:Medical breakthrough pigs Organ transplant 
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