Have you ever seen a movie? How about a sci-fi movie? You know, one of those yarns about how scientists were so busy asking if they could that they never stopped to ask …we don’t even have to finish it, do we. Of course you’ve seen movies like this! Because you are not a scientist. Scientists have not seen these movies, because they are simply too busy trying to recreate the sci-fi plots in real life. Take, for example, this news from Nature, in which a team of scientists have, well …read for yourself.
Researchers have restored circulation and cellular activity in the vital organs of pigs, such as the heart and brain, one hour after the animals died. The research challenges the idea that cardiac death — which occurs when blood circulation and oxygenation stops — is irreversible, and raises ethical questions about the definition of death …In the work, published on 3 August in Nature, researchers connected pigs that had been dead for one hour to a system called OrganEx that pumped a blood substitute throughout the animals’ bodies. The solution — containing the animals’ blood and 13 compounds such as anticoagulants — slowed the decomposition of the bodies and quickly restored some organ function, such as heart contraction and activity in the liver and kidney.
OK. So, tl;dr: “geniuses” pumped the carcasses of dead pigs full of a solution called OrganEx (great, terrifying name, by the way) that brought some of their organs back to the realm of the living. Or, at least, the not entirely dead. The “mostly dead,” as Miracle Max might have it.
Apparently, scientists did try to pump the chemicals into the pigs’ brains as well — proving once and for all that these people don’t watch movies — but observed “no coordinated brain activity that would indicate the animals had regained any consciousness or sentience.” Right. Sure. Comforting.
Obviously, this kicks off a big ethical debate. Just what counts as death? Are pigs really dead if scientists can find ways to bring their organs back online? And if we can do it to pigs, what other living creatures are up for a little post-mortem experimentation? And what could go wrong in the attempt to muddy the waters between dead and alive? How bad could playing God be? You know, those types of questions.
Zvonimir Vrselja, a neuroscientist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, who was involved in the study, downplayed things a little for Nature, stressing that no dead animals were actually reanimated, per se. “We made cells do something they weren’t able to do when the animals were dead.”
“We’re not saying it’s clinically relevant,” he argued. “But it’s moving in the right direction.”
Or the wrong one, depending on where you fall on the whole “so busy figuring out whether they could that they didn’t stop to ask if they should” thing. Jurassic Park streaming on HBO Max! (For now.)