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Partial Organ Revival After Death

Written by Vindya Senanayake

Hey Folks! This trending research is all about organ viability. A study published in Nature this year discusses varying degrees of cell and organ recovery after death in pigs. 

Organ transplantation has long been hampered by the scarcity of suitable donor organs and the challenges of organ rejection. The concept of xenotransplantation, using animal organs for transplantation, has held promise. Nonetheless, it has been hindered by immune reactions and the potential for cross-species disease transmission. However, research in this area has continued and researchers have partially revived pig brains hours after the animal died. We have achieved partial revival of dead organs! This is a stunning breakthrough in medical science. However, it calls into questions the finality of brain death thereby raising ethical concerns of what defines death. 

A potential solution for partial organ revival after death

Yale University researchers conducted this revolutionary study by connecting the deceased animal to a system named OrganEx. This system was able to circulate a blood substitute through the body preserving the functions of  major organs and slowing mechanisms inside cells that begin decomposition. The same research group first tried this stunning technique on pig brains in 2019. In that study, they observed signs of metabolic processes and cellular activity. Next, they wanted to test this fate in other organs like heart, liver, and kidney with a modified version of the BrainEx solution that would promote suppression of blood clotting and immune responses to facilitate partial revival of organs after death. 

The experimental setup for partial organ revival after death

To test their hypothesis, they obtained pigs from a local farm and monitored them for 3 days to ensure normal activity.  Next by connecting the animals to ventilators, the pigs were shocked to induce cardiac arrest. Later, once a negative pulse was confirmed they removed the ventilators. They maintained this state for one hour and reconnected the pigs to the ventilators. At this stage, anesthesia was  provided to the animals. The researchers connected the experimental group to the OrganEx system and the control group to the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine to continue supplying oxygen to the blood outside the body. 

OrganEx to the rescue?

Interestingly, six hours into the treatment, Yale researchers observed a partial regain of blood circulation in the treatment group’s body tissues. Although the OrganEx system couldn’t fully restart the heart, it did confirm some electrical activity and contractions. Furthermore, the OrganEx pigs responded to glucose, producing albumin—an indicator of metabolic activity. Alongside the resumption of metabolism, they observed the upregulation of genes responsible for cellular function and repair in major organs, strongly suggesting a partial revival of the heart.

Adding to the intrigue, researchers noted involuntary movements in the heads, necks, and torsos of OrganEx pigs. However, researchers detected no electrical brain activity, suggesting spinal cord control independent of the brain. The absence of brain activity could be attributed to components in the OrganEx solution, such as neuronal blockers and anesthetics, which impeded brain signals, compounded by the solution’s lower-than-body temperature. Despite the partial nature of revival in this study, it unveils a potential mechanism for resuscitating and preserving scarce organs postmortem, making it a landmark study in transplantation biology.


Andrijevic, D., Vrselja, Z., Lysyy, T., Zhang, S., Skarica, M., Spajic, A., Dellal, D., Thorn, S. L., Duckrow, R. B., Ma, S., Duy, P. Q., Isiktas, A. U., Liang, D., Li, M., Kim, S.-K., Daniele, S. G., Banu, K., Perincheri, S., Menon, M. C., & Huttner, A. (2022). Cellular recovery after prolonged warm ischaemia of the whole body. Nature, 1–8.

Kozlov, M. (2022). Pig organs partially revived in dead animals — researchers are stunned. Nature, 608(7922), 247–248.


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