A U.S. biotech company embarks on a mind-boggling plan to resurrect 20 brain-dead patients. How exactly does this Philadelphia-based firm intend to execute the first step toward proving that humans already declared dead can be brought back to life?

BioQuark, already receiving ethical approval from the U.S. Institutional Review Board, will begin the first phase of its project called ReAnima, which involves identifying 20 patients in India already pronounced clinically and legally dead.

Brain death is irreversible and characterized by total brain function loss. A body that has suffered brain death, however, can stay alive via life support.

BioQuark CEO Dr. Ira Pastor and colleagues seek to employ stem cell and peptide injections, as well as techniques such as nerve stimulation, to prompt regions of the brain and the central nervous system to repair and regrow themselves the way some fish and amphibians can. In this phase, the company is partnering with stem cell treatment specialist Revita Life Sciences.

How It Works

In an interview with NextShark, Pastor explained that they favored India as the site of ReAnima due to combined economics and regulations for conducting their “living cadaver” studies.

“Most likely the subjects will be Indian as we will only be recruiting from the hospital ICU, unless of course there are patients/families of other nationalities who happen to be living in the immediate area,” he said.

In the “proof of concept” study, the subjects will receive a peptide mix, which will be pumped into their spinal cords daily for six weeks, and get a stem cell injection twice weekly. Lasers and nerve stimulation – usually provided to comatose patients – will seal the regimen by kicking off the process of epimorphic regeneration, practically the same mechanism behind salamanders regrowing their arm.

Afterwards, the patients will be monitored using brain imaging methods to track changes in the brain, upper spinal cord and brainstem, the region controlling independent breathing and heartbeat. Results could appear in as early as two to three months, Pastor hoped.

The team is targeting a “function epimorphic event” at the site, which refers to cells’ ability to delete their history and restart life all over again through a “defined generative developmental pattern,” Pastor clarified. What this means: the cells refresh, adapt to their new surroundings, and achieve regenerative feats following critical trauma.

Beyond Life Support

Scientific consensus dictates that the body can no longer act viably without brainstem function, although assistive life support can keep a brain-dead person “alive.” The brain-dead’s body, too, can still perform specific involuntary tasks such as wound healing, digestion, and blood circulation.

BioQuark’s team aims to challenge this by reviving some of the patients’ brainstem functions via the combination therapies. Pastor believes their work will offer insights into other severe consciousness disorders, including coma or vegetative states, as well as degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Pastor, asserting that all their tools currently exist in medical science, but only used in a novel way, thinks their innovation could go beyond offering disease cures.

“Obviously, a complete human re-animation event is a far reaching goal, but one that we do not foresee as impossible,” he said.

Photo: Neil Conway | Flickr

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