Researchers at Yale University in the United States used a new technology called OrganEx that restores cells in organs from pigs that have been dead for an hour.
This Wednesday (4), the discovery was published in a study in the scientific journal naturestating that the OrganEx technology is able to restore the circulation and activity of cells in vital organs of pigs, such as the heart and brain.
Thus, the study, as well as its practical application, questions the idea that cardiac death (when oxygenation and blood circulation stop) is irreversible. The group of scientists at the Yale University School of Medicine used a computer-controlled machine to simulate heart and lung function.
The OrganEx is that machine, which serves to pump the prime for the perfusion, which consists of a mixture of synthetic hemoglobin, antibiotics and molecules to protect the cells and prevent blood clots.
Perfusion is the technique used in heart surgery that consists of maintaining artificial life support through a machine, temporarily replacing heart, lung and kidney functions, oxygenating the blood and pumping it through the circulatory system.
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Therefore, OrganEx was used to pump the mixture used in the perfusion into the pigs’ bodies one hour after the animals’ death, with sensors monitoring the circulation and measuring the pigs’ blood pressure in real time.
Thus, they tested the effectiveness of the new technology by comparing pigs treated by OrganEx with other pigs treated with machines more common in hospitals that have the same purpose of artificially restoring circulation.
This process is called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) and is used in patients with severe heart and lung problems. Unlike machines currently available for ECMO treatment, OrganEx had fewer signs of hemorrhage, cell damage, or tissue dilation.
OrganEx technology can prevent cell death
According to the researchers responsible for the OrganEx technology, this data shows that the system can rebuild some functions in cells of various vital organs. For example, during the process, the researchers observed a greater contraction among the heart cells of the pigs that underwent the OrganEx treatment, which did not occur in samples from the animals that used conventional ECMO machines.
The answer to this change is that the OrganEx technology prevents the fluid used in the perfusion from clotting, preventing the reduction of blood flow. When blood flow decreases, as in a stroke or heart attack, cells die from the lack of oxygen and nutrients that the blood has, resulting in organ and tissue death.
Therefore, the technology of the OrganEx machine is very important, as it proves that cell death is not as fast as is commonly thought. According to one of the researchers at Yale University, “this guarantees the possibility of interventions to effectively prevent cell death”.
However, on the other hand, the novelty of the OrganEx technology has already started to generate controversy in relation to medical ethics. According to midfielder Bredan Parent, the technology can raise ethical questions, as well as bring about an upheaval in medicine.
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The main issue for the doctor is the change in the confirmation of death by medical professionals, especially in cases of cardiorespiratory arrest.
“If we decide that someone is dead because their heart has stopped beating, but we use technology to restart the heart – even if for organ preservation – doesn’t that destroy the patient’s confirmation of death?” asked Brendan Parent.
However, the positive side of OrganEx can overcome ethical questions, as the durability of the organ through the new technology can allow better transplants.
Finally, one thing is for sure, OrganEx technology will transform human understanding of life and death.