They then tested the efficacy of OrganEx by comparing pigs treated with OrganEx to those connected to a more traditional machine used in hospitals, which saves the lives of patients with severe heart and lung disease by restoring blood circulation, a process called Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO).
Organs treated with OrganEx were found to show less signs of bleeding, cell damage or tissue swelling than organs treated with ECMO. The researchers say this suggests the system can repair functions in cells of multiple vital organs that would otherwise die without their intervention. For example, the researchers looked at how heart cells collected from OrganEx pigs contracted, but did not see the same contractions in the samples from the ECMO group.
Nenad Sestan, professor of neurobiology, said: “These cells start functioning after hours when they shouldn’t, which tells us that cell death can be stopped and their function can be in multiple vital organs. recovery, even an hour after death,” at the Yale University School of Medicine, told reporters at a briefing. “But we don’t know if these organs can be transplanted.”
The study draws on a previous machine developed by the same team, called brain experimentused to partially restore pig brains within hours of pig death, MIT Technology Review First reported in 2018. It also uses a series of pumps and filters to simulate the rhythm of natural blood circulation, pumping a similar chemical mixture into the pig’s brain blood vessels to restore oxygen flow to the dead brain within six hours of death. It kept many cells in the brain alive and functional for more than a day, although the team did not detect any electrical activity that would indicate the brain had regained consciousness.
When a mammal’s blood flow is restricted, such as in a stroke or heart attack, the lack of oxygen and nutrients that the cells it carries need to survive can cause them to die and, ultimately, tissue and organ death. After the heart stops beating, organs begin to swell, blood vessels collapse and block circulation. OrganEx perfusate avoids this as it cannot clot. Zvonimir Vrselja, an associate research neuroscientist at Yale University School of Medicine who worked on the study, likened OrganEx to “ECMO on steroids.”
The findings suggest that cells don’t die as quickly as we had assumed, opening up the possibility of interventions that effectively “tell them not to die,” he said.
“We show that this progression to large-scale permanent cell exhaustion does not occur too quickly to be avoided or possibly corrected,” he added.