A controversial undertaking.
Dr. Himanshu Bansal, an Indian biotechnology specialist with Revita Life Sciences, has collaborated in a joint effort with US biotechnology company, Bioquark Inc., to attempt to resurrect the brains of clinically dead patients. The biotechnologists have been granted permission to recruit 20 brain dead patients and attempt to bring their central nervous systems back to life. The undertaking is certainly a controversial one, but if it’s successful, we could be taken into an entirely new era of medicine.
The permission was given by an Institutional Review Board at the National Institutes of Health in the US and India, and the researchers can begin Phase I clinical trials whenever they’re ready, so the scientists plan to recruit patients for their ReAnima Project immediately.
"This represents the first trial of its kind and another step towards the eventual reversal of death in our lifetime," Ira Pastor, the CEO of Bioquark Inc., told The Telegraph.
Although the human trial is a world first, the researchers were inspired by animals, like geckos, that can regenerate body parts.
On their website, the researchers write, “Many non-human species can repair, regenerate and remodel substantial portions of their brain and brainstem even after critical life-threatening trauma,” so they hope to use the tools of regenerative biology and reanimation research to work towards a medical breakthrough that would replicate this in humans.
The goal is to reanimate parts of the upper spinal cord where the lower brain stem is located, and if that happens, the researchers could possibly kickstart the vital functions that these patients currently rely on machines for — like breathing and a beating heart.
So how exactly do the biotechnologists plan to resurrect clinically dead brains? They have four different types of treatment that they’ll be testing out:
Injecting stem cells into the brain twice a week
Injecting peptides (or simple protein chains) into the spinal cord every day
Nerve stimulation — a non-invasive technique in which mild electrical pulses are delivered to the median nerve of the upper limb
Transcranial laser therapy — another non-invasive treatment that uses light to activate the body’s natural recovery processes
"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," Pastor said.
After the team gets permission from the willing families of 20 brain dead patients, the researchers will begin the trial over a six-week period in Anupam Hospital in India. After the trial, the patients will be monitored for several months for any changes in their bodies.
"We hope to see results within the first two to three months," says Pastor.
In particular, the researchers will be looking for improvements in pulse, blood pressure, blood oxygen saturation, and respiration.
Although these patients are “clinically dead” and hooked up to life support machines, many still retain vital body functions like processing waste, digesting nutrients, healing wounds, and growing. Live Science reports that some can even fight off infections and gestate a baby.
So if scientists can figure out how to resurrect their central nervous systems, there’s hope that the patients could have a second chance at life.
"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," founder and president of Bioquark Inc., Sergei Paylian, told The Telegraph.
Right now, there’s no way to predict how this trial will go, so all we can do is wait around for the results with wishful thinking.
"It is a long-term vision of ours that a full recovery in such patients is a possibility,” Pastor said, “although that is not the focus of this first study — but it is a bridge to that eventuality.”