Bringing the brain back to life sounds like pure science fiction but one company is trying to make it a reality. Read on to discover what could be a science game-changer.
What is your aim?
The core mission of Bioquark’s Reanima Project is to focus on exploratory research in the state of brain death. This includes irreversible comas in subjects who have recently met the Uniform Determination of Death Act criteria but who are still on life support. This is a classification in many countries around the world known as a beating heart cadaver. We have the ultimate goal of beginning to explore the induction of epimorphic, intercalary, regenerative and remodelling events that can begin to restore form and function in the central nervous system. We are at this point only going to be focusing on cases at the “grey zone” of deep and irreversible coma caused by some acute trauma.
How do you regenerate cells? How does it work?
We currently live on a planet with other organisms that from a health and wellness perspective, are much further advanced than human beings. Many organisms can repair, regenerate and remodel substantial portions of their brain and brain stem even after critical life-threatening trauma, including certain amphibians, fish, planarians, insects and small hibernating mammals. They can replace lost or damaged organs and tissues that are identical in structure and function to the original, effortlessly regenerating a wide variety of tissues, including spinal cords, limbs, hearts, eyes, and even parts of their brains. In a similar fashion, many of these same species possess fascinating skills for repairing and reversing cellular and genetic damage. Cancer, as an example, is found to be extremely rare in species displaying an efficient regenerative mechanism, even under the action of potent carcinogens. In many cases, when cancer does occur, tumours have been found to spontaneously remodel and integrate into their surroundings as normal, healthy tissue. Some of these organisms can age, and then return to a youthful state later on in life. Some can even die and be reborn. Needless to say, humans are extremely weak when it comes to accomplishing any of these feats.
This realisation led Bioquark to develop a unique platform, which could help humans to re-awaken and mimic these abilities for purposes of health and longevity. While present in many different forms throughout nature and across species, these abilities are found co-existing in the synergistic biochemical dynamics found within activated ooplasms, found in the oocyte in the ovum. Bioquark’s program focuses on deriving novel biochemical materials from these ooplasms. While ooplasm based reprogramming has been studied in the form of cloning and IVF for the past 60 years, and in the form of egg free reconstitution experiments in the petri dish for the last 30 years, we are taking the next step of “exporting the biochemical signal” to other tissues.
Regeneration in nature involves many mechanisms operating in synergy as cells are reprogrammed in target tissues to support morphogenesis and cell migration. It is our contention that there will be no “single magic bullet” for success and any traditional single drug approach would be fairly futile. Hence why we are employing this type of “combinatorial” approach.
How is it being kept ethical?
From a straight “bio-ethical” perspective, when you combine an institutional ethics committee involvement, the comprehensive, family centric informed consent, and the long history of this type of research involving living cadavers, we feel we are on pretty solid ground. Additionally, in the three years since its inception we spent time vetting this unique research concept with a diverse external constituency, including neuro-intensivists, drug regulators, diplomats, patient advocates, lawyers, and religious scholars from Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths – we feel we are on firm bio-ethical footing. Exploratory research programs of this nature are not false hope. They are a glimmer of hope.
What results have you had so far?
At this point we have created protocols, informed consent documents, and have only begun to explore the intricacies of recruitment in such a unique patient population.
What are you planning to achieve?
Of course, many folks are asking the “what comes next?” question about complete reanimation, and while full recovery in such patients is indeed a long term vision of ours, and a possibility that we forsee with continued work along this path, it is not the core focus or primary end point of this first study. Needless to say it is a very untouched area of discovery and development. It is an area that has very few therapeutic interventional studies of any type occurring, in comparison to the more traditional degenerative disorders of the CNS – Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, MS, ALS, etc.
For more on the Reanima Project visit their website.