Biotech companies in the US and India are moving ahead with trials on reviving brain-dead people.
Before I get into the interesting bits of this, I’ve gotta say, when I saw the press release with the Reanima Project logo, I was sure this was clever marketing for a new zombie video game.
That looks like a logo you’d see in a Resident Evil game plastered all over the zombie filled offices of some front-company for Umbrella Corp. Although, technically, the techniques behind this sound more inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
The two companies involved in the project, Bioquark Inc. and Revita Life Sciences, don’t explain in their press release exactly how this regeneration/reanimation will work–presumably so you’re not trying this at home, Dr. Frankenstein–and also because they don’t know yet. That’s why they’re doing this study. The goal is to test techniques like implanting stem cells and stimulating the central nervous system to see what could reverse the neural degeneration that quickly follows death in humans.
Resurrecting humans isn’t as far-fetched and science-fictiony as it might sound. In 2014, multiple news outlets (Newsweek, BBC, New Scientist) reported on the work of doctors who are inducing hypothermia in trauma patients, draining out their blood, performing surgery, and then pumping the blood back in and bringing their temperature up (and restarting their hearts) when it’s safe to do so.
The lower body temperature prevents the brain damage that would typically accompany the heart stopping. It gave the doctors time to do life-saving surgery. But the patients weren’t alive while undergoing that surgery. They didn’t even have blood in their bodies! In those situations, death was a life-saving medical technique.
Even if biotech companies don’t unleash a Frankenzombie army, we’re entering a new era in our relationship with death. We may not understand more about death, but these techniques are definitely going to require us to explore many of the beliefs and judgments we’ve made about an experience we’ll all share at some point. Will everybody soon be swapping stories about the number of times they’ve died?