Scientists believe that a combination of therapies could stimulate regeneration. Photo / Getty Images
It sounds straight out of Game of Thrones.
Scientists seeking to bring the brains of dead people back to life have won approval for a groundbreaking trial.
A biotech company has been granted ethical permission to find 20 patients who have been declared clinically dead from a traumatic brain injury, to test, with their families’ consent, whether parts of their central nervous system can be regenerated.
Researchers will inject the patients’ brains with stem cells twice a week and with a daily cocktail of amino acids, as well as using lasers and nerve stimulation techniques which have been shown to bring people out of comas.
The patients will have been certified dead and only kept alive through life support.
The team from Bioquark, a US company, believes that the stem cells may be able to re-start life – rather like in Game of Thrones‘ Westeros where death is not always the end.The treatment will run over six weeks and they will be monitored for several months using brain imaging equipment to look for signs of regeneration, particularly in the lowest region of the brain stem, which controls independent breathing and heartbeat.
it would be a similar process to that seen in creatures like salamanders, which can regrow entire limbs and can regenerate substantial portions of their brains after injury.
Dr Ira Pastor, the company’s chief executive, said: “This represents the first trial of its kind and another step towards the eventual reversal of death in our lifetime.”
The ReAnima Project has just received approval from the National Institutes of Health in the US and plans to start recruiting patients immediately.
Its first trial, to prove the idea can work, will take place at Anupam Hospital in Rudrapur, Uttarakhand India. The company also has permission from the Indian authorities. It hopes to see results within two to three months.
Pastor added: “It is a long term vision of ours that a full recovery in such patients is a possibility, although that is not the focus of this first study – but it is a bridge to that eventuality.”
Brain stem death occurs when a person no longer has any brain stem functions, and has permanently lost the potential for consciousness and the capacity to breathe.
But with life support, the body can often still circulate blood, digest food, excrete, grow, sexually mature, heal wounds, gestate and deliver a baby. Recent studies have suggested that some slight electrical activity continues.
The study should provide insights for future treatments of coma, vegetative states and degenerative conditions including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, said Dr Sergei Paylian, Bioquark’s president and chief science
officer of Bioquark Inc.