A company called Bioquark reportedly claims it intends to bring back the dead, as in deceased people or at least brain dead people, with stem cells. Or at least awaken their brains. If it works, would those people be like zombies? Is it ethical to experiment in this way on dead people?
We first met Bioquark last year when their “reanima” idea got some media buzz and I blogged about my skepticism here. From my 2016 post:
“The idea seems to be that injection of stem cells into the brain stem could lead to enough rejuvenation to reverse brain death at least partially and this would be done in combination with laser stimulation of the brain. I need to learn more, but how exactly could lasers affect the brain positively? More broadly, I’m skeptical of this approach.”
Fast forward to today. Apparently things didn’t work out in India with the plans for reanimation of the dead via stem cells plan as the Daily Mail reports it was “shut down”. I guess the plan now has shifted geographically to Latin America for a “trial”:
“And now, CEO Ira Pastor has revealed they will soon be testing an unprecedented stem cell method on patients in an unidentified country in Latin America, confirming the details in the next few months.
To be declared officially dead in the majority of countries, you have to experience complete and irreversible loss of brain function, or ‘brain death’.
According to Pastor, Bioquark has developed a series of injections that can reboot the brain – and they plan to try it out on humans this year.
They have no plans to test on animals first.”
There may be real effects of laser stimulation on the brain and I’m certainly convinced that stem cells have great potential for CNS conditions, but this Bioquark effort seems way out in left field (of the cemetery) in my opinion.
Some may ask, “if a brain-dead person’s body is otherwise healthy and if you could somehow heal part of their brain enough to regain consciousness or even just a more active brain, might that be a good thing?” In theory “maybe”, but in practice almost certainly not as there’s likely a medical reason his or her brain is dead in the first place such as profound brain damage. Others might ask, “Isn’t experimenting on dead people OK?” It’s different than doing clinical studies on living people of course, but just because someone is brain dead doesn’t mean you have carte blanche to do whatever. There are ethical issues and guidelines still.
And no animal testing first? That’s a big red flag, if accurately reported by the Daily Mail.
If you had strong pre-clinical data from animals that proved there was something to this hypothesis in the first place then maybe that is a place to start discussions even if not clinical experiments.
Bottom line. In my opinion this kind of research isn’t a very good idea. Instead, in the neurological arena it makes more sense to focus energy, resources, and time on using stem cells to try to have a regenerative effect in the nervous system of fully living people who are suffering from neurological disorders. There are promising trials in this area on living patients based on concrete data.