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.”