Dying Organs Restored To Life In Novel Experiments

NEW YORK TIMES | By Gina Kolata | July 10, 2018: The article highlights that dying organs can be restored and that science is progressing to one day bring this technology to humanity.

When Georgia Bowen was born by emergency cesarean on May 18, she took a breath, threw her arms in the air, cried twice, and went into cardiac arrest.

The baby has had a heart attack, most likely while she was still in the womb. Her heart was profoundly damaged; a large portion of the muscle was dead, or nearly so, leading to the cardiac arrest.

Doctors kept her alive with a cumbersome machine that did the work of her heart and lungs. The physicians moved her from Massachusetts General Hospital, where she was born, to Boston Children’s Hospital and decided to try an experimental procedure that had never before been attempted in a human following a heart attack.

The experimental procedure took 1 billion mitochondria — the energy factories found in every cell in the body — from a small plug of Georgia’s healthy abdominal muscle and infuse them into the injured muscle of her heart.

Mitochondria are tiny organelles that fuel the operation of the cell, and they are among the first parts of the cell to die when it is deprived of oxygen-rich blood. And once they are lost, the cell itself dies.

But a series of experiments have found that fresh mitochondria can revive flagging cells and enable them to quickly recover. In animal studies at Boston Children’s Hospital and elsewhere, mitochondrial transplants revived heart muscle that was stunned from a heart attack but not yet dead, and revived injured lungs and kidneys.

Infusions of mitochondria also prolonged the time organs could be stored before they were used for transplants, and even ameliorated brain damage that occurred soon after a stroke.

In the only human tests, mitochondrial transplants appear to revive and restore heart muscle in infants that was injured in operations to repair congenital heart defects.


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