Tuesday, May 10, 2016


New Delhi: Soon, dead brains may be brought back to life - if the Multi-Modality Approach or ReAnima Project becomes successful.

As per reports, a team of doctors from India and the US, led by Indian scientist Dr Himanshu Bansal, are working on an ambitious project to infuse life into those deemed brain dead.

As part of the project, the team has been granted ethical permission to recruit 20 patients declared clinically dead from traumaic brain injury.

The team will perform the first stage of the trial named ‘First In Human Neuro-Regeneration and Neuro-Reanimation’ at Anupam Hospital in Rudrapur, Uttarakhand India.

In the experiment, scientists will include a range of procedures and therapies which include injecting the brain with stem cells and a cocktail of peptides in a effort to revive the brains and brought back to life.

Dr Bansal, who works with Biotech companies Revita Life Sciences and Bioquark Inc, claimed that he had already had some success with two patients in the Gulf and Europe.

“We are now trying to create a definitive study in 20 subjects and prove that the brain death is reversible. This will open the door for future research and especially for people who loose there dear ones suddenly,” Dr Bansal was quoted as saying to Telegraph.

The peptides will be administered into the spinal cord - of those being kept alive solely through life support – on a daily basis via a pump, with the stem cells given bi-weekly, over the course of a 6 week period.

The groundbreaking project represents the first trial of its kind, which is also another step towards the eventual reversal of death in our lifetime.


A trial to see if it is possible to regenerate the brains of patients who have been declared clinically dead has been approved. Reanima Advanced Biosciences aims to use stem cells, injections of peptides, and nerve stimulation to reverse “brain death as noted in clinical examination or EEG”, a project which at least scores highly on ambition.

There is a small problem with the study, however, and a major one. The first issue is our definition of brain death, which involves the irreversible end of function – if it is curable, then patients were never brain dead in the first place.

We can get around this if we recognise that being “irreversibly dead” is technology dependent. For a long time, a lack of breathing and pulse were regarded as hallmarks of death, until resuscitation methods improved. Today, drowning victims that suffer extreme hypothermia, lack of oxygen, and lack pulse and breathing for several hours can be revived(with luck and some heavy medical interventions). Even not having a heart isn’t death if you are on the transplant surgeon’s table.

Given historical precedent, then, we should not discount the possibility that some people currently regarded as irreversibly dead may be revivable by future medical technology. And if the Reanima project succeeds, we will have to revise our concept of brain death and possibly the status of some patients. Presumably, this also will make further research on patients in this state harder, since they are potentially savable and can be harmed by some interventions...

In the best possible case, the proposed Reanima treatment would miraculously restore the previously-declared dead person. They would regain full psychological continuity, the death certificate would be nullified, and they would continue their old life. They would clearly benefit because they would get a second chance at life.

But it is not hard to imagine that the treatment would not restore the brain completely: memories, personality and functions might be scrambled, lost, or replaced with newly-grown tissue. A new person may have a life worth living and enjoy existing. They could be said to have benefited in the same way a child benefits from being brought into the world. But if there is limited or no psychological continuity, then the original person won’t benefit: they are now truly dead, since their body and brain have become a new person.

Would it make sense to want this kind of treatment if it only makes new people? It is not a health-restoring treatment for anybody, merely an unusual way of reproduction. And though we may want some part of the original person to remain, we could equally well transplant the organs to benefit other people.

The real problem of course is the possibility of creating persons who have lives that are not worth living, or beings that are not people but who we still have a moral duty to care for...

The real problem may simply be that Reanima cannot deliver. Looking at their website leaves me wondering what the company actually is, beside a website offering an app. It wouldn’t surprise me if it turns out to be a viral campaign for some upcoming horror movie that fooled various news outlets. Still, it has registered a clinical trial and the CEO seems to be a real person with real ambitions.

Going after the high impact jugular rather than trying to tinker with small effects might be just what the doctor ordered for the medical industry, which has been criticised for not trying to solve the big problems. Disrupting death is unlikely to be easy, but as author Seth Godin said: “Waiting for perfect is never as smart as making progress.” 


  1. The National Institutes of Health have approved an application from Bioquark to perform a small pilot study that would attempt to rejuvenate the inactive brains of patients who had experienced traumatic brain injuries. The study will use amino acids, nerve stimulation, lasers, and stem cells to try to trigger measurable EEG activity in brains that no longer perform life-sustaining functions.

    The patients will presumably be on artificial life support systems to provide nutrients and oxygen to their brains and bodies. But according to standard medical definitions, Bioquark will be attempting to bring them back from the dead.

    The trial is the first stage of Bioquark’s broader Reanima project, which it describes as “exploring the technical boundaries of life and death to offer patients and families a second chance.”

    The project may sound farfetched, but electrical stimulation has already been shown to temporarily raise awareness in patients in coma states. Brain death is of course much more severe, and reversal would require regenerating damaged neuron tissue.

    That’s something humans can’t do, but Bioquark is apparently hoping to use stem cells to overcome that limit. In its announcement, the company points to the ability of non-human species like fish and amphibians to repair portions of their nervous systems...

    Even if the project’s long-term goal of reversing brain death proves impossible, Bioquark says the study’s findings could make contributions to the treatment of other disorders of the nervous system, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.


  2. Ever since Ira Pastor declared his company's intentions to take 20 brain-dead patients and try to “regenerate” their nervous systems, his email box has been overflowing with inquiries from far-flung parts of the world.

    Sceptical scientists grilling him about the details of the techniques his team is using. Desperate families, who have been paying for years to keep loved ones on life support, wondering how to enroll. Outraged representatives from every major religion telling him why what he's doing violates the laws of nature.

    But the most vociferous challenge, says Pastor, chief executive of Philadelphia-based Bioquark, has been from the “zombie contingent.”

    “You wouldn't believe how many people have said, 'Please don't do this. You're going to start the zombie apocalypse',” he says….

    Brain death is perhaps the least understood state of the human mind. Most of us - including many scientists - take it for granted that the condition is absolute and final. Pastor argues that's a mistake. He says he believes it is a potentially curable condition and that given the right combination of stem cells, drugs, electrical currents, magnetic fields or other stimuli we haven't thought of yet, the mind may yet have the power to reawaken…

    That idea is controversial for many reasons - moral, religious, scientific, economic. If the project finds even a little bit of success, it has the potential to upend our entire health-care system. Hospitals could be forced to keep brain-dead people on life support indefinitely, bankrupting insurers, and the whole organ-donation system, which relies heavily on the altruism of families of brain-dead patients, could come to a standstill.(continued)

  3. (continued)Sam Parnia, a researcher at Stony Brook Medicine who in 2014 led a groundbreaking study on people's state of mind and consciousness at the time of death, has theorised that death may not be a specific moment but a process that can last hours or even days. If that's the case, he says, efforts such as Bioquark's to intervene and reverse this process hold “a potentially very exciting promise for the future.”

    But Parnia emphasised that there is a big difference between being able to reanimate some cells and reanimating a whole brain.

    “It may reverse cell damage in some areas but not other critical brain areas, leading to severe and significant disabilities and injuries in people who would have otherwise died,” he said. “At worst, people who would have died will come back but end up in a vegetative state.”

    Robert Veatch, a professor emeritus of medical ethics at Georgetown University's Kennedy Institute of Ethics who has written a forthcoming book about how death is defined, is more sceptical. He points out that in all of medical history there has not been a single documented case of a person who met the criteria for brain death and was then revived in any state.

    “It is a bizarre stretch of the imagination to think that all of those billions and billions of cells could be somehow fixed,” he said.

    The more we learn about the brain, the more it has become clear that there's no on-off switch and that there area between consciousness and unconsciousness is a spectrum. There have, for instance, been cases of patients being given anaesthesia who appear to be asleep but are actually conscious of their pain and paralysis. Researchers have also reported the nearly miraculous reawakenings of the near dead after being given, quite paradoxically, the sleep drug Ambien.

    Then there's the case of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon. Cared for in a private room at a medical centre with an armed guard outside for eight years, the “sleeping giant,” as he was known, never woke up from his coma, but the scientists caring for him found through scans that when they played the sounds of voices of his family, his brain lit up…

    The lead researcher for the project on the ground is Himanshu Bansal, a doctor whom the Hindu, one of India's largest daily newspapers, described as “a slightly overweight, affable, eager-to-please man in his early forties.” He is an orthopaedician, a specialist who deals with injuries and diseases of the musculoskeletal system, rather than a neuroscientist.

    According to the Hindu, Bansal claims that he has been working on comatose patients since 2009 and has had some success with two patients.

    “One patient was brain-dead, but after we started our experiments, she started responding to pain stimulus - meaning her blood pressure would change every time she felt pain,” he said. “But I cannot give you more details due to confidentiality agreements with my patients.”

    During the six-week trials (patients will be treated individually as their families sign on), the men and women will be given a continuous infusion into an area around the spinal cord of a biochemical cocktail the company developed through its research on previous regenerative medicine. Stem cells will also be administered every two weeks.