A controversial experiment attempting to revive brain-dead patients in India has been dropped. (Credit: Shutterstock)

A controversial experiment to revive brain-dead accident victims has been scrapped.

The Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) National Institute of Medical Statistics officially removed the “ReAnima” trial from India’s clinical trial registry on Nov. 11.

The experiment began in May when Himanshu Bansal, an orthopedic surgeon at Anupam Hospital in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand, announced plans to give approximately 20 brain-dead people a mix of interventions including injections of mesenchymal stem cells, peptides, transcranial laser stimulation and median nerve stimulation.

Transcranial laser stimulation is a process that involves shinning pulses of near-infrared light in the brain, while median nerve stimulation is the electrical stimulation of a major nerve that runs from the neck to the arm. Both techniques have been proven to improve cognition in patients with traumatic brain injury.

The ICMR identified several regulatory lapses in the trial that led to the decision, including a failure to seek permission to proceed from the Drug Controller General of India, a requirement for all clinical trials in India.

Bansal previously described his aim as bringing brain-dead individuals back to a minimally conscious state where patients show flickers of consciousness like moving their eyes to track objects.

While there is little evidence to show that brain-dead people can recover with function, Bansal has maintained that there is a significant number of cases of people who have recovered full consciousness from a minimally conscious state.

However, other researchers have doubted the project, claiming that situations where brain-dead individuals on life support who return to a fully functional state is hard to interpret and often lack evidence of brain death such as the apnea test, a measure of whether the person’s brain stem is making an effort to breathe.

Other concerns raised by scientists and physicians include whether the trial is ethically justified and that the mix of interventions has not been tested in animal models.

In a press statement, Bansal defended the proposal, saying there is no good animal models for human brain death.