Last Wednesday (3) was interesting for science, since among the various studies announced, one particularly stood out. Indeed, scientists have announced that they have succeeded in restoring certain cellular and molecular functions in pigs. However, what caught the eye was that they managed to do it an hour after the animals died.
The study published in the journal Natura, in addition to reconstituting the activity, showed to be able to preserve certain types of tissues in pigs. “The point of our paper is to show that cells don’t die the way we think they do, which basically opens up a possibility for intervention,” said Zvonimir Vrselja, a neuroscientist at Yale University and lead on the research. .
“In this study, we show that if we intervene correctly, we can tell them [as células] not die,” he added. However, the researchers point out that they had no evidence of normal electrical brain activity during the procedure.
So, in 2019, the same group of researchers announced a similar technique, when they managed to restore metabolic activity in pig brain cells after six hours without oxygen. At the time, they also warned that no electrical activity had been identified that could imply “a phenomenon of consciousness or perception” and that the cells were in fact not “alive”, but “active”.
So now researchers have perfected the procedure and it can be applied not only to brain cells, but also to other organs in test animals, such as the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and pancreas. According to the researchers, this has the potential to provide a breakthrough in the conduct of transplants and the treatment of strokes and heart attacks.
The researchers in charge used a method similar to the first study: domestic pigs aged 20 to 12 were made to have a heart attack. So they pumped an artificial solution that looks like blood through the pigs’ bodies an hour after the death decree.
The solution in question consists of a synthetic form of the protein hemoglobin, responsible for transporting oxygen in red blood cells. So they irrigated the solution through a computer-controlled system for six hours.
“The objective here was to see if the use of perfusate [a solução] could restore metabolic and cellular function in a wide range of organs, and we have found that it does. But it did not restore all the functions of all the organs,” explained the director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics at Yale University, Stephen Lantham.
The researchers analyzed the performance of the device, called OrganEx, compared to a more traditional system used in hospitals to restore circulation, called ECMO (Extra Corporal Oxygen Membrane).
Thus, the study results showed that ECMO therapy failed to establish adequate circulation to all organs, so much so that several smaller blood vessels collapsed. Meanwhile, OrganEx preserved tissue integrity, slowed cell death, and restored molecular and cellular processes in vital organs such as the heart, brain, liver, and kidneys.
Additionally, organs treated with the new system showed fewer signs of hemorrhage or tissue edema, which is swelling caused by fluid buildup, compared to organs treated with ECMO therapy.
a big step
To understand the safety and true potential of the new technique for cell recovery after death or interrupted blood flow, further research is needed. However, the study authors point out that the procedure opens doors to revolutionize treatment strategies for people who experience a heart attack or stroke.
“This technology is still in the experimental phase, and we are planning further animal studies before we even think about transcending this technology even further,” said David Andrijevic, lead author of the paper. In addition, the new system could increase the availability of organs for certain types of transplant.