Why comatose infants make ideal test subjects for brain-reviving technology

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Image: Mercury

A recent Nature paper describing an artificial blood perfusion used in an attempt to restore brain function after pigs were decapitated has generated great discussions in the medical, scientific, and bioethical academic arenas. Although the study’s results showed marked improvement and restoration in many cellular and molecular functions within the brain, the artificial blood perfusion system, called BrainEx, failed to restore global brain activity associated with awareness, perception, or other higher-order brain functions whose absence are intrinsic to defining death. 

The medical definition of death has been guided by the Harvard criteria established in 1968. Briefly, these criteria included unreceptivity, unresponsiveness, no movements or breathing, no reflexes, and a flat electroencephalogram.

Related article:  'Not just eye candy': New mapping technique could help unlock brain's mysteries

There are cases of infants who had fit the Harvard criteria of death, and yet had awoken from their coma. In Israel, physicians rarely declare an infant under two months of age as brain dead because some of these infants recover from their comas.  

These cases suggest that scientists should examine the use of BrainEx on newborn piglets rather than adult pigs as they did in their study. If successful, the first clinical applications should be in comatose infants—and not adults—to potentially reverse their comas.

Read full, original post: Test Brain-Reviving Technology in Infants First

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