The pigs had already died an hour ago, however, the cells of their hearts, brains, and livers were still kicking.
Thanks to a new system called OrganEx, scientists can now preserve the organs of the newly dead pigs They survive by attaching the animals to a system of pumps, filters, and gushing fluids. This procedure does not return animals brain post or pull the pigs from behind the great; Instead, it ensures that some cellular functions continue in the vital organs of animals.
In the future, the system could be used to help preserve and restore donated human organs intended for use in transplant procedures, scientists report in a new study published Wednesday (August 3) in the journal. temper nature (Opens in a new tab). This process can increase the number of organs available for transplantation by reversing the effects of ischemia – where the organ suffers damage due to its insufficiency. the blood Flow and oxygen supply – in donated organs.
In theory, such a device could also be used in living humans to treat ischemia that occurs during stroke or heart The attack, Dr. Robert Porte, a professor in the department of surgery at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands who was not involved in the study, wrote in an accompanying report. Suspension (Opens in a new tab) from work.
However, this technology won’t be applied to living humans or donated organs anytime soon.
Related: How long can organs remain outside the body before being transplanted?
“This is very far from use in humans,” Stephen Latham, director of the Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics and co-author of the study, told reporters at a Tuesday (Aug. A proof-of-concept experiment in pigs demonstrated that the OrganEx system could restore some cellular function in some organs after blood had stopped flowing to those organs, but the degree of recovery varied between organs.
“We need to study [in] More details about the degree of reversal of ischemic damage in different types of organs before we are close to trying such an experiment on a human who has experienced hypoxia,” meaning organ damage due to lack of oxygen, Latham said.
The team plans to study OrganEx in several animal studies “before even considering translating” the technology to humans, Dr. David Andrejevic, an associate research scientist in neuroscience at Yale University School of Medicine and co-first author of the study, said. in the briefing.
How does OrganEx work
The new research builds on a previous study published in 2019 in the journal temper nature (Opens in a new tab)The researchers used a smaller version of the same system to recover some cellular data and metabolism Activity in the brain of a decapitated pig during food production.
This smaller system, called the BrainEx, pumps a fluid filled with hemopore — a synthetic form of the protein hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in red blood cells — through the brain’s blood vessels. The fluid also contains chemical compounds intended to prevent blood clots from forming and cells from self-destructing through a process called “apoptosis.” Pumping this fluid through the brain prevented swelling of the organ, as would normally occur after death, and allowed some cellular function to continue for up to four hours after decapitation. (Importantly, the treated brain did not produce any electrical signals associated with normal brain function or “residual consciousness,” the authors emphasized.)
“Cells actually don’t die as quickly as we assume they do, which basically opens up the possibility of intervention,” Dr. Zvonimir Vrselga, an associate research scientist in neuroscience at Yale University School of Medicine and first co-author of the study book, said at a press conference. Tuesday. In other words, if scientists can intervene quickly enough, they can save some cells from certain doom.
In their latest work, the team essentially scaled up the BrainEx system to quench an entire pig’s body at once.
The expansion system uses a device similar to a heart-lung machine, which takes over the role of the heart and lungs During surgeries by pumping blood and oxygen into the body. The team used this device to pump both pig blood and a modified version of the artificial cell-saving fluid through the bodies of deceased pigs. Their synthetic solution contained 13 compounds intended to suppress inflammation, stop the formation of blood clots, prevent cell death and correct electrolyte imbalances that arise when ischemia sets in.
Related: Creating ‘universal’ transplant organs: A new study brings us one step closer.
To test OrganEx, the team caused cardiac arrest in anaesthetized pigs, and then, an hour later, connected the animals to the device. They compared the organ-treated pigs with pigs treated with an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) system, which pumps only oxygenated blood through the animals’ bodies.
Six hours later, the team found that ECMO had not adequately irrigated the animals’ organs with blood and that many blood vessels had collapsed, as they usually do after death; ECMO-treated animals also showed extensive signs of bleeding and tissue swelling. By comparison, OrganEx reduced the degree of cell death and improved tissue preservation throughout the body.
What’s more, the organ-treated pigs showed signs of cellular repair unfolding in the brain, heart and lungs, liverAnd the the kidneys and pancreas, and these vital organs retained some cellular and metabolic functions during the six-hour experiment. The heart, in particular, showed signs of electrical activity and was able to contract. Further examination of pig hearts, kidneys and liver revealed that certain genes involved in cellular repair were activated in the organs, while they were not activated in ECMO-treated pigs.
“What this tells us is that cell demise can be halted and function restored in multiple vital organs, even one hour after death,” says Dr. Nenad Sestan, professor of neuroscience at Yale University School of Medicine and senior author of the study. , he said in the briefing.
The results suggest that one day, OrganEx or components of the system may be applied in the treatment of ischemia and in the preservation of transplanted organs, particularly in the case of “circulatory death donation”, where the donated organs are deprived of blood circulation for some time prior to transplantation. , Portey wrote in his comment. But again, more research is needed before the system can be applied in either mode.
In follow-up work, the research team wants to better understand how, where and to what extent OrganEx restores cellular function in different animal organs. In addition, they will need to assess whether and how their synthetic solution needs to be adapted for use in human tissue. At the press conference, Latham said ethical and practical concerns must be addressed before even considering using the system in living humans.
“You have to think about,” he said, “what state would a man be returned to if he had been severely damaged by ischemia and you gave him an infusion that reversed some, but not all, of that damage?” . “Saving organs, preserving organs for transplantation, I think is a much closer and more realistic clinical goal that this study can build upon.”
Originally published on Live Science.
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