Bioethics News

Bold attempt to reverse brain death gets US approval

Despite some sceptics, an Indian company working with a US biotech company has received a green light from the US clinical trials authority to test a protocol for reversing brain death.

Dr Ira Pastor, the CEO of the American biologics company Bioquark, believes that this could be a breakthrough technology, “another step towards the eventual reversal of death in our lifetime”.

The Reanima project has received approval to experiment on 20 subjects diagnosed with brain death at Anupam Hospital in Rudrapur, a small city about 250 km east of New Delhi.

While it may seem implausible, Dr Pastor points out that some brain dead patients “can still circulate blood, digest food, excrete waste, balance hormones, grow, sexually mature, heal wounds, spike a fever, and gestate and deliver a baby”. He has studied the regenerative properties of amphibians and other animals and believes that it is possible to regenerate brain tissue “with the convergence of the disciplines of regenerative biology, cognitive neuroscience, and clinical resuscitation”.

In the experiment, peptides will be administered into the spinal cord daily via a pump, with stem cells given bi-weekly, over six weeks. “It is a long term vision of ours that a full recovery in such patients is a possibility,” says Dr Pastor.

Is ReAnima being over-ambitious in this proof-of-concept study? Dr Dean Burnett, a neuroscientist at the Cardiff University’s Centre for Medical Education, believes that it might be. He told the London Telegraph:

“While there have been numerous demonstrations in recent years that the human brain and nervous system may not be as fixed and irreparable as is typically assumed, the idea that brain death could be easily reversed seems very far-fetched, given our current abilities and understanding of neuroscience.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.