Bioquark don't want you to mention the 'z' word, but an upcoming trial from the life sciences company could see brain dead people resurrected from the dead. To a degree anyway. But before you can say The Walking Dead this isn't quite full resurrection. Well, not yet anyway. Instead the study by the Philadelphia-based company Bioquark will see if it's possible to begin to regenerate and resurrect dead people's brains using stem cells.
Yes, it sounds like the plot for a horror film, unfortunately though it's quite the opposite.
Last year biotech company Bioquark were given ethical permission to experiment on 20 brain dead people. For the trial they wanted to use various tests on the clinically dead patients, and see if any parts of the central nervous system could be resurrected and brought back to life. Will these scientists never learn?
To do this doctors (who are obviously not horror movie fans) are going to use stem cells and peptides (chains of amino acids) to inject into the patient's spinal cords and brains. To aide this they also aimed to stimulate the nerves with electricity and laser treatments, both of which have worked before in awakening people from comas.
The idea is that perhaps one of these techniques will cause new neurons to grow. And if these new neurons make connections they could cause the brain to be resurrected from its clinically dead state. “It’s our contention that there’s no single magic bullet for this, so to start with a single magic bullet makes no sense. Hence why we have to take a different approach.” said Ira Pastor, CEO of Bioquark.
The trial was set to take place in Rudrapur, India in April 2016. However according to Stat News they never managed to enrol anybody, and regulators shut it down because it hadn't been cleared by the Drug Controller General in India. And thankfully a zombie apocalypse happening that year was averted.
Bioquark's Stem Cell Trial Gets Resurrected
But, much like they hope for the patients, the trial has been resurrected (see what we did there?). Because now they're hoping to relaunch the study later this year, possibly hosting it in a Latin American country. The fools.
Once Bioquark have recruited some patients, who need to be kept alive by life support, they will then perform their experiments. And can monitor them using brain imaging technology to see if regeneration is occurring. And if anything of the central nervous system is being resurrected.
They hope that one of their therapies could cause brain stem cells to restart, or reset, based on the surrounding tissue. It's a biological process seen in some animals, like salamanders, allowing them to regrow whole limbs.
And as Bioquark's website states, many lower organisms can regenerate all manner of tissues. Not just limbs but also spinal cords, hearts, eyes, and parts of the brains. "Some of these organisms can age, and then return to a youthful state later on in life. Some can even die and be reborn." says the site.
Are Stem Cells The Link For Human Resurrection?
This isn't the case for humans though, instead scarring occurs rather than a complete restoration of the lost tissue. But the regeneration and repair mechanisms that allow for resurrected tissue in the animal kingdom is connected to their ability for complex reprogramming and remodeling of the tissue.
"These capabilities represent a biological regulatory state reset, whereby various forms of damage is erased in cells. Followed by their redirection into a developmental program, where they become reintegrated with their micro-environment cellular neighbors, and reorganized via a community effect along tissue, organ and positional specificity." notes Bioquark.
Bioquark also notes that while many species have these capabilities throughout their life time, it only occurs in humans during the very brief time following fertilization between egg and sperm when new life is created. It then disappears. The company want to tap back into this, and are hoping stem cells might aide in that quest.
"This represents the first trial of its kind and another step towards the eventual reversal of death in our lifetime." Pastor said about last year's trial. “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."
Does The Scientific World Agree With Bioquark?
Other scientists remain skeptical, however, noting that while advances in science have been made, and our understanding of the brain and central nervous system is changing. We're a long way from dead people being resurrected. Or even reversing to any degree brain death. In fact Dr. Charles Cox, a pediatrics surgeon at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, said to Stat News. "I think [someone reviving] would technically be a miracle. I think the Pope would technically call that a miracle.” Or a plot for a horror movie.
Still, while Bioquark's trial might not see anybody resurrected, it could reveal some previously unknown insights into brain death and the diseases associated with it. Or it could be the beginning of the end for humankind.
Dr Sergei Paylian, founder and chief science officer at Bioquark says, “Through our study, we will gain unique insights into the state of human brain death, which will have important connections to future therapeutic development for other severe disorders of consciousness, such as coma, and the vegetative and minimally conscious states, as well as a range of degenerative CNS conditions, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.” Hollywood scriptwriters couldn't have written a better synopsis for a zombie movie.
What a time to be dead. Find out more details at Bioquark's website.