There are some names that simply should not be given to medical experiments. Case in point: the ReAnima Project, recently approved by an Institutional Review board at the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. and India. As the project name suggests, this effort is aimed at bringing back to life human brains in 20 patients that have been declared clinically dead.
What could go wrong?
Bioquark Inc. is leading the research in which a mixture of stem cells and various peptides will be injected into the subject’s brains. Reportedly, lasers and nerve stimulation techniques will also be employed in an effort to regenerate the brain, especially the base of the brain, near the spinal cord, which is where the functions of breathing and heart regulation originate.
I cannot avoid images of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Although life is difficult to define, it certainly is more than biological functionality. Are we on the verge of true “walking dead”? Persons who are alive biologically, but devoid of personality, memories, emotions—those traits that make humans, well, human?
For better or worse, advancements in medical technology have resulted in breakthroughs that only a generation ago were indisputably in the realm of science fiction. The human genome and many others have been mapped. Techniques now exist to identify and alter specific genetic sequences. Are we close to reanimating the dead?
What will be the unintended consequences of achieving such a breakthrough? In Relentless Savage I touched on this dilemma in the context of human genetic experimentation. My concluding comments in the Author’s Notes bear repeating: “…science has no morals. That is why people must exercise their conscience. Science is knowledge. And knowledge can be used for good or bad. It is our choice.”
I hope and pray we choose wisely.