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In what might be a scientific miracle or the overstepping of human ethics, scientists were able to get several dead pig’s hearts beating independently again. The pigs had died of cardiac arrest an hour before the experiment.

You may remember back in 2019 scientists from Yale were able to regain some brain function in dead pigs. The team gathered over 300 pig heads and removed their brains and pumped them with a special cocktail of chemicals for six hours. This project, called BrainEx didn’t result in the animal regaining consciousness, but the brain’s cellular function returned.

An extension of that project called OrganEx was recently used on intact dead pig bodies that had been clinically dead for an hour. A report says the animal’s heart, liver, and kidneys saw some reanimation where there wasn’t before. Cellular-repairing genes were also active. “These cells are functioning after they should not be,” Nenad Sestan, a project scientist told the Wall Street Journal.

Pigs (1973)

The machine they used on the carcasses resembled a “heart-lung machine.” They pumped a mixture of the animal’s blood and special chemicals into the bodies.

Advances in medicine have always been controversial, and this project is no different. Ethical questions have arisen as to the purpose of this experiment and what it suggests. Researchers say the primary purpose of these trials is to see if they can restore function to organs longer after death for use in future transplants. But if they can also potentially reanimate the brain, or use blockers to prevent it, what does that mean for potential human organ donors who have died?

And what if this new breakthrough could potentially revive recently deceased humans who died by drowning or heart attacks for example?

Frankenstein (1931)

Reviving humans who have died has long been a topic of supernatural horror movies. From Frankenstein to Re-Animator, bringing the body back leads to catastrophic results.

Perhaps there is no better example of the ethical question than in Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. After the tragic loss of his two-year-old son, Gage, Doctor Louis Creed takes his corpse to a notoriously cursed and remote burial site in Maine. The area is known to bring the dead back to life. In his grief, Creed buries his son against the warning of his neighbor Jud who tells him, “sometimes…dead is better.” Pet Sematary (1989)

Gage returns but is seemingly possessed by a murderous entity.

Fiction in this case is much stranger than real science. But the ethical question might be the same. Is it okay to revive humans after death in order to preserve their organs for terminally ill patients? And what if the process also restores some of the deceased’s brain function? What would they be like if they “came back”?

Thankfully OrganEx project bioethicist at Yale, Stephen Latham, says the tech is, “very far away from use in humans.”

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