By Janey Tracey
Could we regenerate brains in clinically dead patients? A health watchdog organization has approved a new trial that will attempt to revive technically dead humans using their own stem cells.
The trial will be run by biotech company Bioquark, which is primarily focused on developing “combinatorial biologics” that get to the heart of disease reversal rather than just treating the symptoms. They believe that stem cells can be used as a kind of “reset button” for the body, erasing cell damage and stimulating tissue regeneration. They claim that their research could potentially lead to “complex tissue and organ regeneration, disease reversion, and even biological age reversal.”
In this study, twenty patients who are declared brain-dead (which is considered clinical death, so long as the patient is only kept alive through life support), will be subjected to a series of treatments, including the injection of brain stem cells and peptides into the brain. The researchers hypothesize that the stem cells will take their cue from surrounding cells and differentiate into fully functional brain cells, a process that has been seen in other animals, such as salamanders that regrow limbs.
“This represents the first trial of its kind and another step towards the eventual reversal of death in our lifetime,” Dr Ira Pastor, the CEO of Bioquark, told The Telegraph. “To undertake such a complex initiative, we are combining biologic regenerative medicine tools with other existing medical devices typically used for stimulation of the central nervous system, in patients with other severe disorders of consciousness. We hope to see results within the first two to three months.”
The first stage, since it has such a small and non-random sample size, will just be a proof-of-concept. The cocktail of stem cells and peptides will be administered bi-weekly over the course of six weeks.
“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.”
Some scientists are already expressing doubt that this could lead to anything resembling a genuine recovery for brain-dead patients, as studies have shown that humans’ capacity for regeneration is somewhat limited. However, even if the regeneration aspect of the project isn’t quite successful, the study will still shed light on the process of brain death, and possibly spur innovation in the treatment of debilitating neurological diseases.
“Through our study, we will gain unique insights into the state of human brain death, which will have important connections to future therapeutic development for other severe disorders of consciousness, such as coma, and the vegetative and minimally conscious states, as well as a range of degenerative CNS conditions, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease,” said Dr Sergei Paylian, Founder, President, and Chief Science Officer of Bioquark.”