Scientists in U.S. are trying to bring dead brains back to life
Scientists at a Philadelphia-based biotech company say they are developing a way to bring dead brains back to life.
Bioquark is planning on launching the experiment later this year in a Latin American country, according to Business Insider.
The trial will inject stem cells into spinal cords of individuals who are declared brain dead, but are being kept alive through life support. The body will also receive steroids, electrical nerve stimulation and laser therapy in an effort to grow new neurons that connect with each other.
The treatment would take several days, after which the body would be kept alive through life support and observed for several months. The ideal outcome would be a brain brought back to life.
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The company’s first attempt at the experiment was scheduled to begin in India last year, but was blocked by the country’s council of medical research. The trial, dubbed “ReAnima,” was supposed to involve 20 brain-dead patients, according to ScienceLab.
Himanshu Bansal, a surgeon in the Indian state of Uttarakhand involved with the project, said his goal was to bring patients back to a “minimally conscious state,” such as moving their eyes.
While the research is preliminary, it does raise several questions.
Bernard Dickens, a University of Toronto professor who specializes in bioethics, says reviving the brain would first require consent — the framework for which would be heavily debated.
Dickens adds that the definition of death itself would also be scrutinized, and, in Canada, provinces may differ on what constitutes brain dead.
But he does add that reviving parts of the body that have stopped functioning is not completely new, citing the example of a heart, which can be revived several minutes after it stops beating.
“In a stroke, part of the brain dies, but can often be revived,” he notes, saying speech therapy can “restore” the ability to talk.
“The concept of reviving a part of the body that has stopped functioning is not new — whether that can happen with an entire brain is the issue,” he says.
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It’s something many scientists have been skeptical about.
Dr. Ariane Lewis and bioethicist Arthur Caplan slammed Bioquark’s experiment in a 2016 article.
“Given the complete absence of foundation for this study and it’s at best, ethically questionable, and at worst, outright unethical nature, this trial would never be approved in the United States,” they wrote. “This trial borders on quackery.”
North of the border in Canada, a trial like this would face similar scrutiny, Dickens says, adding that the legal framework would have to recognize that “death is not death.”
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