The “reanimation” of dead pigs, promise of progress and source of questions


On Wednesday, the scientists succeeded in reactivating the blood circulation and the functioning, for a few hours, of the cells in the bodies of the dead pigs. This medical feat is the promise of significant progress on the surgical front. But if science has never resurrected pigs, a phenomenon observed during the experiment leaves the door open to dizzying potential. A story of live pigs. However, cold as death, the pigs were returned to a form of life, their organic functions restored, Wednesday, August 3, by American researchers, already in 2019, these same scientists had already stunned the world doctor by managing to restore the functional cell in the brain of pigs, a few hours after their decapitation. In their latest research, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, the team took the bet even further, extending this technique throughout the animal’s body, which caused a heart attack in anesthetized pigs. , which stopped blood circulation and deprived their cells of oxygen: without oxygen, mammalian cells die. After an hour, they injected the dead bodies with a liquid containing the pigs’ blood (taken while they were alive) and a synthetic form of hemoglobin. – the protein that transports oxygen to red blood cells. As well as drugs that protect cells and prevent the formation of blood clots.the next six hours.Enrichment of the bank of transplantable organs Good news for surgery: vital organs could be “reanimated” for a transplant . Because until now, beyond a few minutes of circulatory arrest, the organs could no longer be grafted, explains Dr. Jean-Etienne Bazin, head of the perioperative medicine center at the University Hospital of Clermont-Ferrand, the pigs worked hours later when they should. I have been working,” said Nenad Sestan, lead author of the study and researcher at Yale University, in a press conference. The name of this technique, “this way could allow us to enrich the bank of transplantable organs”, rejoices Jean-Etienne Bazin. . What could potentially save the lives of people waiting for a transplant? death? For Sam Parnia, from the department of medicine at the same university, this study “really remarkable” it also shows that “death is a biological process that can be treated and is reversible hours later.” To the extent that the medical definition of death might need an update, judged Benjamin Curtis, philosopher spe “Given this study, many processes that we thought were irreversible would not be,” he told AFP. “And according to the current medical definition of death, a person could not really be dead for hours,” certain processes that last longer of the cessation of functions bodily Philippe Bizouarn, anesthesiologist-resuscitator at CHU Nantes, is nowhere to be found. surprised way: “The death of a person is not the death of his cells”. In the mountains of Arrée, where this Breton was during the fires that ravaged the forests of his childhood, “a green grass appeared under the ashes. Like the cells of an inanimate body, the seeds returned to life under the remains of completely charred vegetation,” explains Dr. in an effort to popularize the philosophy? But “beware of fantasies”, warns Dr Bizouarn, for whom these pigs have not been “brought”. to live again.” “Let’s rather say that we managed to get his organs back to their functions.” In short, for the anesthesiologist, science does not resurrect the dead. But “as usual, this experience will be assumed by transhumanist groups like Google X Lab” “, sighs Philippe Bizouarn. In fact, barely revealed to the public, the experiment already raises a myriad of ethical, even philosophical, questions. Although science fiction helps to “ask us the right bioethical questions”, these, in this case, must date, there is no place for the doctor: Among those who fuel these controversies, many do not have, according to him, ” no idea what’s going on in medical reality.” ‘Extraordinary’ Far from sensational, however, one reaction observed during the pig experiment raises more questions than it answers: a large majority of the animals made powerful head and neck movements, according to the story by Stephen Latham, one of authors of the study. “It was quite surprising to the people in the room,” he told reporters. If the origin of these movements remains unknown, the scientist assured that at no time had electrical activity been recorded in the pigs’ brains, thus excluding, a priori, a recovery of consciousness. However, such head movements are “a major concern,” believes Benjamin Curtis, because recent neuroscience research has suggested that “conscious experience can continue even when electrical activity in the brain cannot be measured.” Dr. Jean-Etienne Bazin explains another variable: during the experiment, the anesthesia or hypothermia of the animals could inhibit the electrical activity, thus falsifying the diagnosis. Hence an unsolved question, continues the doctor-professor: how to interpret the movements of these pigs? Was it “simply” the result of the motor stimuli that the spinal cord sends “automatically” or the conscious commands of his brain, which would have woken up? For this scientist, not being able to completely invalidate this last eventuality, that is what is “extraordinary”, it is in front of us, otherwise we could not live”, philosophizes the doctor. To be reborn or not to be. Perhaps this is not the question.

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