Bringing people back from the dead may seem like something you’d only see in horror movies and these attempts usually result in something less than holy, remember this kid? But later this year researchers from Bioquark, a company based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania hope to do just that.
Although their process does not involve any dark magic spells, vampire blood or a pet cemetery, the study is still extremely controversial. Because this isn’t Final Fantasy and using a Phoenix Down type potion to bring people back from the dead is generally frowned upon. In a nutshell, the trial will begin by injecting stem cells into the spinal cords of people who are declared brain dead as well as deploy lasers and nerve stimulation techniques with the hopes that new neurons will grow and connect to each other thus restart the brain and bring the patient back from the dead.
Researchers believe the stems cells may be able to start up the brain again based on their surrounding tissue. Which is the same process used by some species of lizards to regrow a lost limb.
Something else to keep in mind is that the definition of death has changed in the past few decades. Before, you were declared dead when your heart stopped beating but nowadays, in many countries, to be officially declared dead means there has to be a complete loss of brain function or “brain dead” but according to Bioquark CEO Ira Pastor, brain death is not completely irreversible.
“This represents the first trial of its kind and another step towards the eventual reversal of death in our lifetime. Said Dr. Ira Pastor of Bioquark CEO of Bioquark
"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.
This is actually Bioquark’s second attempt at launching this study, the first trial launched in Rudrapur India in 2016 but it didn’t get any patients and the study was eventually shut down several months later. Now the company is set to begin a second trial in a new location, which is said to be an unidentified country somewhere in Latin America.
The new trial will attempt to enroll 20 patients who have been declared dead and only kept alive through life support. The patients will first receive an injection of stem cells harvested from their own blood, then a peptide formula is injected into the spinal cord which will hopefully create new neurons, then lasers will be used to help stimulate the neurons to form connections. During this time the patients will be monitored with MRI scans to look for signs of regeneration, especially in the lowest region of the brain stem which is responsible for independent breathing and heartbeat.
This may all sound good in theory but there are a lot of problems. First of all, if a patient is technically dead, how will he or she give consent? Because I’m sure none of us would actually want to come back like the night of the living dead, but probably never made what wish generally known while alive. Also like I mentioned earlier, this trial is really just all conjecture. No one is 100% sure this could actually work.
According to an editorial written in 2016 by Neurologist Dr. Ariane Lewis and bioethicist Arthur Caplan, they called this study “borders on quackery,” “has no scientific foundation,” and gave families “a cruel, false hope for recovery.”
Dr. Charles Cox, a pediatric surgeon who has studied the same type of stem cells being used in this trial also said. “it’s not the absolute craziest thing I’ve ever heard, but I think the probability of that working is next to zero,”
“I think [someone reviving] would technically be a miracle,” he said. “I think the pope would technically call that a miracle.”
But Pastor thinks Bioquark’s protocol will work. “I give us a pretty good chance,” he said. “I just think it’s a matter of putting it all together and getting the right people and the right minds on it.