BENGALURU, INDIA—The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has derailed a controversial experiment that would seek to revive brain-dead accident victims. On 11 November, ICMR’s National Institute of Medical Statistics removed the “ReAnima” trial from India’s clinical trial registry.
In May, Himanshu Bansal, an orthopedic surgeon at Anupam Hospital in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand, announced plans to give around 20 brain-dead people a mix of interventions including injections of mesenchymal stem cells and peptides, and transcranial laser stimulation and median nerve stimulation. Transcranial laser stimulation involves shining pulses of near-infrared light into the brain; median nerve stimulation is the electrical stimulation of a major nerve that runs from the neck to the arm. Both techniques have been shown to improve cognition in patients with traumatic brain injury. Bioquark, a biotech firm based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, had agreed to supply the trial with peptides that are said to help regenerate brain cells.
In interviews with Indian media in the spring, Bansal described his aim as bringing brain-dead individuals back to a “minimally conscious state” in which patients show flickers of consciousness, such as moving their eyes to track objects. Although there is scant evidence that brain-dead people can recover such function, Bansal says the medical literature describes a significant number of cases of people who have recovered full consciousness from a minimally conscious state.