Morgue bodies alive?

PARIS (AFP) — Scientists announced Wednesday they have restored blood flow and cell function throughout the bodies of pigs that were dead for an hour, in a breakthrough experts say could mean we need to update the definition of death itself.

“This research shows that many processes that we thought were irreversible are not in fact irreversible, and so on the current medical definition of death a person may not be truly dead until hours after their bodily functions have stopped,” Benjamin Curtis, a philosopher focused on ethics at the United Kingdom’s Nottingham Trent University, told AFP.

“Indeed, there may be bodies lying in morgues right now that haven’t yet ‘died’ if we take the current definition as valid,” Curtis said.

A United States-based team of researchers stunned the scientific community in 2019 by managing to restore cell function in the brains of pigs hours after they had been decapitated and in their latest research, published in the journal Nature, they expand the technique called OrganEx to the entire body.

The team induced a heart attack in the anesthetized pigs, which stopped blood flowing through the bodies causing the pigs to sit dead for an hour.

The scientists then pumped the bodies with a liquid containing the pigs’ own blood, as well as a synthetic form of hemoglobin — the protein that carries oxygen in red blood cells — and drugs that protect cells and prevent blood clots.

Blood started circulating again and many cells began functioning including in vital organs such as the heart, liver and kidney, for the next six hours of the experiment.

During the experiment, pretty much all of the OrganEx pigs made powerful movements with their head and neck, Stephen Latham, a Yale ethicist and study co-author, said.

“It was quite startling for the people in the room,” he told journalists.

Latham emphasized that while it was not known what caused the movement, at no point was any electrical activity recorded in the pigs’ brains, showing that they never regained consciousness after death.

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