Yale Scientists Restore Cell, Organ Functions In Pigs After Death
A technology developed by Yale University scientists has restored cell and organ functions among pigs after death, a potential organ transplant breakthrough, Bill Hathaway reported for SciTechDaily.
Photo Insert: Six hours after treatment with OrganEx, they found that key cellular functions were active in the pigs’ bodies — including the heart, liver, and kidneys.
Within just minutes of the final heartbeat, a cascade of biochemical events triggered by a lack of blood flow, nutrients, and oxygen begins to destroy a body’s cells and organs.
Using a new technology the scientists developed that delivers a specially designed cell-protective fluid to organs and tissues, the team restored blood circulation and other cellular functions among pigs a full hour after their deaths. They report their findings in the August 3 edition of the journal Nature.
Their results may help extend the health of human organs during surgery and expand the availability of donor organs, the authors said. “All cells do not die immediately, there is a more protracted series of events,” said David Andrijevic, associate research scientist in neuroscience at Yale School of Medicine and co-lead author of the study.
“It is a process in which you can intervene, stop and restore some cellular function.”
The research builds upon an earlier Yale-led project that restored circulation and certain cellular functions in the brain of a dead pig with technology dubbed BrainEx. Published in 2019, that study and the new one were led by the lab of Yale’s Nenad Sestan, the Harvey and Kate Cushing Professor of Neuroscience and professor of comparative medicine, genetics, and psychiatry.
The new study involved senior author Sestan and colleagues Andrijevic, Zvonimir Vrselja, Taras Lysyy, and Shupei Zhang, all from Yale.
“If we were able to restore certain cellular functions in the dead brain, an organ known to be most susceptible to ischemia (inadequate blood supply), we hypothesized that something similar could also be achieved in other vital transplantable organs,” Sestan said.
BrainEx consists of a perfusion device similar to heart-lung machines — which do the work of the heart and lungs during surgery — and an experimental fluid containing compounds that can promote cellular health and suppress inflammation throughout the pig’s body.
Cardiac arrest was induced in anesthetized pigs, which were treated with OrganEx an hour after death. Six hours after treatment with OrganEx, they found that key cellular functions were active in the pigs’ bodies — including the heart, liver, and kidneys.
Some organ functions had been restored. For instance, they found evidence of electrical activity in the heart, which also retained the ability to contract.