New technique may lead to reversal of “brain death”

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Scientists are prepared to test injections that could potentially “reboot” the brains of patients suffering “brain death.” Using a unique stem cell method, they will begin attempts to reverse brain death later this year.

Bioquark, a Philadelphia-based company, made an announcement in 2016 about the procedure, saying brain death may not be irreversible.

According to a report from the Daily Mail, Bioquark CEO Ira Pastor has said they will try their stem cell method on patients in Latin America, but a specific location has not been identified.

Skipping animal testing, Bioquark will reportedly be using a “series of injections that can reboot the brain” on people who have experienced “complete and irreversible loss of brain function” and are considered brain dead. The Bioquark trials are part of a larger project called ReAnima, which has Pastor on its advisory board.

According Pastor, “The mission of the ReAnima Project is to focus on clinical research in the state of brain death, or irreversible coma, in subjects who have recently met the Uniform Determination of Death Act criteria, but who are still on cardio-pulmonary or trophic support – a classification in many countries around the world known as a ‘living cadaver.'”

This is the second time trials were announced. Last year,  Pastor collaborated with an orthopedic surgeon in India, Himanshu Bansal. They planned to proceed with the tests in India, but following the announcement, the Indian Council of Medical Research blocked the trials.

The study record provided before the doomed trials in India gives some insight into their method. According to the study records, the first stage was to be called “First In Human Neuro-Regeneration & Neuro-Reanimation. It would include a non-randomized, single group study to provide “proof of concept.” Using MRI scans, they would search for signs of brain death reversal on individuals aged 15-65 who had been declared brain dead. Once they had test subjects, the trial would proceed in three stages.

First: using the patient’s own blood, they would harvest stem cells, then re-inject them back into the patient’s body.

Second: a dose of peptides would be injected into the patient’s spinal cord.

Third: A 15-day course of nerve stimulation would begin, involving lasers and nerve stimulation in an attempt to reverse the brain damage. They would be using MRI scans to establish changes and progress.

Complicating the trials is the idea of consent. The patients are only technically dead. Countries vary on how they define death, and it’s not always simple to determine due to advanced medical techniques. It used to be defined as occurring when a person’s heart stops beating, is unresponsive and no longer breathing. Today in the US, death is identified as permanent loss of brain stem function.

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