Controversial Study Wants To Resurrect Brain-Dead People

The contentious study wants to use stem cells to reanimate a brain-dead person. Tinydevil/Shutterstock

A US biotech company has laid out a highly controversial plan to do the unimaginable – resurrect brain-dead people using the power of stem cells.

Last year, Bioquark gained attention after gaining ethical permission to use 20 brain-dead patients for this research in India. Those trials were scrapped after Indian regulators shut it down. 

Now, they are back to announce a new trial in Latin America within the coming months, according to a new report by STAT News.

In the previous trials, the basic idea was to inject stem cells into the patient's upper spinal cord along with a cocktail of peptides shown to help neurons develop. They then aimed to stimulate the brain using electrical nerve stimulation and laser therapy.

Stem cells, undifferentiated cells that have the potential to develop into many different types of specialized cells, have already been shown to hold huge potential for biomedical sciences, whether that’s treating age-related macular degeneration or hair lossThe wider research into stem cells eventually promises to create functional replica tissues and organs for use as replacements.

Just earlier this year, new research produced the growth of millions of brain and muscle cells in a matter of days. However, the jump from this to kickstarting a brain-dead brain is a big one.

“To undertake such a complex initiative, we are combining biologic regenerative medicine tools with other existing medical devices typically used for stimulation of the central nervous system, in patients with other severe disorders of consciousness,” said Ira Pastor, the CEO of Bioquark Inc, as reported by the Telegraph last year, in regards to the previous trials. “We hope to see results within the first two to three months.”

Experts have previously been very skeptical of the plans from both an ethical and scientific viewpoint. Writing for the peer-reviewed clinical journal Critical Care in November 2016, Ariane Lewis and Arthur Caplan from the NYU Langone Medical Center slammed it as a “dubious study” that “borders on quackery.”

“Unfortunately, this study has no scientific foundation,” they wrote. “Given the complete absence of foundation for this study and it’s at best, ethically questionable, and at worst, outright unethical nature, this trial would never be approved in the United States. Moreover, Bioquark, who aims to ‘alter the regulatory state of human tissues and organs,’ has a blatant conflict of interest in undertaking this activity.”

Even in the face of this criticism and previous setbacks, Bioquark remains optimistic: “I give us a pretty good chance,” Pastor told STAT. “I just think it’s a matter of putting it all together and getting the right people and the right minds on it.”

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