Project aims to 'revive' the brain dead

A Philadelphia-based biotech company last month launched a clinical trial that aims to explore what it means to be dead.

The company is conducting the world's first clinical trial on the revival of brain-dead patients, ReAnima, at Anupam Hospital in Rudrapur, Uttarakhand in India.

Dr Himanshu Bansal, an orthopaedician with a keen interest in neuroscience is the principal investigator of the 'groundbreaking' project.  The cutting-edge clinical trial project had received ethical approvals to recruit 20 clinically dead patients by government authorities.

The project is a joint-venture between the Philadelphia-based biotech company Bioquark Inc, Revita Life Science, owned by Bansal, and Anupam Hospital.

The project is set to go ahead due to a massive regulatory gap - the lack of laws for clinical trials on 'living cadaver' or brain dead patients. ''And since India has no laws, no permissions are required,'' sums up Dr CM Gulhati, editor of medical journal Monthly Index of Medical Specialities (MIMS) and an expert in bioethics, The Hindu reported.

With the ethical approval of the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at the Anupam Hospital, Bioquark is recruiting 20 patients who had been clinically deemed brain dead from severe traumatic brain injury.

Armed with cutting-edge treatment techniques, stem cells, bio-active molecules, brain and spinal cord stimulation, the project aims to revive parts of patients' 'brain function,'' and restore the ability of 'patients' to breathe on their own.

The anticipated deadline measurable results is a short 15 days.

According to experts, death is a much more complex process that what is widely understood.

Even after heartbeat and breathing cease, sparks of brain activity often lingered. In some cases, even deeply comatose patients - unable to breathe on their own could maintain simple reflexive responses and their brain waves, however slight or erratic, were still measurable by EEG.

Brain death, however, is final - a complete and irreversible destruction of the brain, including the brain stem. Brain dead individuals are not comatose or in a vegetative state, they had no hope of spontaneous recovery and were dead.

In theory, brain death is a highly objective, rigorously defined medical state with tremendous legal implications, but in practice, brain death was not so cut and dried.

Bioquark CEO, Ira Pastor tsays was a lot of  ''grey zone'' between deep coma and brain death.