The system, previously used to return circulation to severed pigs’ brains, can now restore some functions of cells across other vital organs

They then tested the effectiveness of OrganEx by comparing pigs treated with it to pigs connected to a more traditional machine used by hospitals to save the lives of patients with severe heart and lung conditions by restoring their circulation, a process called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).

OrganEx-treated organs were found to have fewer signs of bleeding, cell damage, or tissue swelling than those treated with ECMO. The researchers said this shows that the system can repair some functions of cells across multiple vital organs that would otherwise have died without its intervention. For example, the researchers observed how heart cells collected from the OrganEx pigs were contracting, but did not see the same contraction in samples from the ECMO group.

“These cells work hours after they shouldn’t, and what this tells us is that the death of the cells can be stopped and their functionality can be restored in multiple vital organs even an hour after death,” Nenad Sestan, professor of neurobiology. at the Yale School of Medicine, he told reporters on a news call. “But we don’t know if these organs are transplantable.”

The research built on an earlier machine developed by the same team called BrainEx, which was used to partially revive the brains of pigs hours after death, which MIT Technology Review first reported in 2018. It also used a series of of pumps and filters to imitate the natural rhythm of pigs. blood circulation, pumping a similar chemical mixture through the blood vessels of the pig’s brain to restore oxygen flow to a dead brain for up to six hours after death. It kept many of the cells inside the brain alive and functioning for more than a day, although the team did not detect any electrical brain activity to suggest the brain had regained consciousness.

When a mammal’s blood flow is restricted, such as by a stroke or heart attack, the lack of oxygen and nutrients that cells need to survive causes them to die, ultimately resulting in death. of tissues and organs. When the heart stops beating, the organs begin to swell, collapsing blood vessels and blocking circulation. OrganEx perfused fluid prevents this because it cannot clot. Zvonimir Vrselja, an associate neuroscientist at Yale School of Medicine who worked on the study, compared OrganEx to “ECMO on steroids.”

The findings, he said, suggested that cells don’t die as quickly as we thought they do, opening up the possibility of interventions to effectively “tell them not to die.”

“We have shown that this progression to massive permanent cell failure does not occur so rapidly that it cannot be prevented or possibly corrected,” he added.

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