They then tested OrganEx’s effectiveness by comparing pigs treated with it to pigs hooked up to a more traditional machine that hospitals use to save the lives of patients with heart disease. and severe lung disease by restoring their circulation, a process known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO).
OrganEx-treated organs were found to have fewer signs of bleeding, cell damage or tissue swelling compared with ECMO-treated organs. This suggests that the system can repair some functions in cells across many vital organs that would otherwise be dead, the researchers say. For example, the researchers observed how heart cells collected from OrganEx pigs contracted, but they did not see the same contraction in samples from the ECMO group.
Nenad Sestan, professor of neurobiology at Yale Medical School, told journalists on a short call. “But we don’t know if these organs are transplantable.”
The study was carried out on an earlier machine developed by the same team. BrainExused to partially revive a pig’s brain hours after death, first reported by MIT Technology Review in 2018. It also uses a series of pumps and filters to mimic the rhythms of natural blood circulation, pumping a similar mix of chemicals through the blood vessels in the pig’s brain to restore oxygen flow to the muscles. within six hours of the animal’s death. It kept many of the cells inside the brain alive and active for more than a day, although the team did not detect any electrical brain activity indicating the brain had regained consciousness.
When a mammal’s blood flow is restricted, such as after a stroke or heart attack, cells die from a lack of oxygen and nutrients carried by the blood; this eventually leads to tissue and organ death. After the heart stops beating, organs begin to swell, constricting blood vessels and impeding circulation. OrganEx perfusion fluid prevents this because it cannot clot. Zvonimir Vrselja, a research associate neuroscientist at Yale Medical School who worked on the study, likened OrganEx to “ECMO on steroids”.
This finding, he said, shows that cells don’t die as quickly as we imagine, which opens the possibility for interventions that effectively “tell them not to die”.
He added: “We have shown that the progression to large permanent cell failure does not occur so rapidly that it cannot be prevented or repaired.