(CNN)Researchers at Yale University say they have been able to restore blood circulation and other cellular functions in pigs a full hour after the animals' deaths, suggesting that cells don't die as quickly as scientists had assumed.
Research in pigs shakes up what we know about dying
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With more research, the cutting-edge technique could someday potentially help preserve human organs for longer, allowing more people to receive transplants.
The researchers used a system they developed called OrganEx which enables oxygen to be recirculated throughout a dead pig's body, preserving cells and some organs after a cardiac arrest.
"These cells are functioning hours after they should not be," said Dr. Nenad Sestan, the Harvey and Kate Cushing Professor of Neuroscience and professor of comparative medicine, genetics and psychiatry at Yale, who led the study.
"And what this tells us is that the demise of cells can be halted. And their functionality restored in multiple vital organs. Even one hour after death," he told a news briefing.
The scientific journal Nature published the research on Wednesday.
"This is a truly remarkable and incredibly significant study. It demonstrates that after death, cells in mammalian organs (including humans) such as the brain do not die for many hours. This is well into the post-mortem period," Dr. Sam Parnia, an associate professor of critical care medicine and director of critical care and resuscitation research at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, told the Science Media Centre in London. Parnia wasn't involved in the research.