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Biotech companies get permission to test brain death reversal

The trial is a long shot, but it raises the hope of reviving people once thought lost.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
May 4, 2016
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AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Brain death in humans is normally considered irreversible. Even if you keep the body running, those damaged brain cells just won't recover to the point where you get a fully functioning person again. However, that isn't stopping Dr. Himanshu Bansal and his partners at Bioquark and Revita Life Sciences. They recently received approval from American and Indian review boards to conduct a trial aimed at eventually reversing brain death in humans. The initial, months-long test will use multiple techniques to try and regenerate brains in 20 patients, including lasers, nerve stimulation and injections of both peptides as well as stem cells.

The hope is that the brain stem cells will wipe their history and start things anew, much like some animals regrow whole segments of their bodies. This trial isn't expected to bring people back to life, though -- it's just a "proof of concept" study that will see if the idea is viable.

Dr. Bansal, Bioquark and Revita Life are taking care to walk a fine ethical line. The patients are officially brain-dead, and their bodies are only functioning due to life support. The bigger debate may revolve around whether or not there's any chance of modern technology bringing someone back to life. As Cardiff University's Dean Burnett tells the Telegraph, there's a big difference between reanimating parts of the brain and doing enough to completely revive someone. While the brain might start regulating body functions again, you might never get the person you knew before.

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