This is not about creating zombies-those so-called living (or walking) dead that are very popular and make a really great theme for TV shows and movies.
Even the Game of Thrones has its version of the living dead with them nasty creatures called White Walkers and Wights.
But then again, that’s only science fiction, isn’t it? Well, maybe not. In fact, this science-fiction plot could soon play out in real life. Read on.
Researchers from U.S.-based biotech company Bioquark are aimimg to “resurrect” patients who have been declared brain dead. Yep, you read it right. ‘Resurrect’, just like those stories in the Bible. Really bringing back people to life.
It goes without saying that this is really a serious matter. More importantly, Bioquark’s small pilot study has been approved and gotten ethical permission by none other than the National Institutes of Health. The study would be an attempt to reawaken the clinically-dead brains of patients who have suffered serious brain injuries.
How will Bioquark do it?
Through stem cell therapy, which has been proven successful already in treating various diseases such as acquired ataxia, Alzheimer’s disease, Bell’s Palsy, cerebral atrophy, cirrhosis, optic nerve damage, osteoarthritis, and leukemia.
But, with brain-dead people, it’s going to be a real challenge since this condition according to medical experts is irreversible.
Brain death is different from a heart that’s already stopped beating. A heart can still be revived and sustained by a ventilator or life-support system.
However, in the case of brain death, you cannot revive dead neurons with the help of a life-support machine even though it continues to pump oxygen to the body. The oxygen will get into the other organs like the heart, but it can no longer be utilized by the brain when the neurons are dead.
Neurons are the working units of the brain, specialized cells which are responsible for transmitting information to other nerve cells, gland cells, and muscles. They form networks or connections in the brain which number up to trillions.
A traumatic brain injury, sudden cardiac arrest, or a stroke caused by a ruptured blood vessel in the brain can cause brain tissues to start dying due to oxygen deprivation.
Oxygen-Deprived Brain’s Timeline:
- Between 30 and180 seconds of oxygen deprivation, a person may lose consciousness.
- At one-minute mark, brain cells start to die as neurons suffer oxygen-starvation triggering frenzied electrical charges.
- At three minutes, neurons sustain more extensive damage as toxic chemicals fill the brain and erode neurons’ sensitive membranes.
- At five minutes, death becomes certain.
- At 10 minutes, even if the brain is still alive, a person may end up in coma and lasting brain damage is most highly-probable.
- At 15 minutes, there’s very little chance of survival.
However, Bioquark is hopeful that stem cell treatment may spur the growth of new neurons to replace the dead ones and pave the way to revive a clinically dead brain. After all, the brain is a fighter and scientists have found out that our gray matter has a small reservoir of stem cells which can produce new neurons.
Researchers are thinking of the possibility of urging these stem cells to generate new neurons which can remedy injured brain tissues. One other option is to inject neural stem cells into the brain of a person who has just died, and these may generate the necessary new neurons to help revive the brain.
Soon, Bioquark will find out the answer or learn some more information from their pilot study which is the first stage of the company’s broader Reanima project. The project is “exploring the potential of cutting edge biomedical technology for human neuro-regeneration and neuro-reanimation” as a way to hopefully give patients and their loved ones a second chance in life.
Bioquark is set to conduct this very first human trial in partnership with the Indian biotech company Revita Life Sciences which specializes in stem cell treatment.