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  • The Lazarus Effect: Can Your Heart Stop Beating Without Dying?

    May 21, 2016: by Bill Sardi

    Is there a phenomenon in biology that can bring back people from the dead? Well, yes, since a person may stop breathing and their heart may stop pumping, but brain or heart muscle damage may not be experienced until later when oxygen supply is restored and toxic oxygen free radicals generated. In medicine this is called reperfusion injury.

    In the interim when a subject may appear to be dead, when tissues are totally or partially deprived of oxygen (anoxia or hypoxia), pre-event activation of powerful internal antioxidants may avert heart and brain damage and the patient is revived.

    In fact, resuscitation (cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR) may commonly deliver too much oxygen (hyperventilation) to tissues, which generates oxygen free radicals that counter-intuitively endangers dying subjects. [EMS World ; MedScape ] In one study, 13 consecutive adults received CPR from overzealous rescue personnel and were over-ventilated (15-49 breaths per minute versus recommended 10-12) and no patient survived. [Critical Care Medicine ]

    The Lazarus Effect

    In modern medicine there is a phenomenon known as the Lazarus Effect, where after failed resuscitation a spontaneous return of circulation occurs. This phenomenon has been recorded less than 40 times in the medical literature. Its name is derived from Lazarus who was raised from the dead by Jesus. [Wikipedia ; Case Reports in Medicine ]

    Waking from the dead may be more common than first thought. [Daily Mail ; Telegraph ]

    On May 14, 2016, 43-year old Robbie Grayson of Franklin, Tennessee had no awareness of The Lazarus Effect, but he was soon to benefit from it.

    Close to 3 AM in the morning, Mr. Grayson began to experience what doctors later believe was an anaphylactic reaction, a serious life-threatening allergic response that can be fatal. Mr. Grayson recalls sneezing approximately two dozen times in a row after entering his downstairs bathroom in the middle of the night due to an upset stomach when he realized he was unable to take in air.

    Hyperventilating, he reached for his rescue inhaler and was unable to take even two puffs. He then began searching for his nebulizer and suddenly realized he needed to get out of the house to find some air.

    Out on the front porch his vision began to blur. He called for his wife to dial 9-1-1 with his last breath. That was the last thing Mr. Grayson remembers.

    His wife says he staggered back into the house and collapsed on the bathroom floor, hitting his head on the way down. He would not regain consciousness for another 30+ hours.

    His breathing had stopped. His eyes rolled back. His tongue rolled out. There was no air in his lungs. His pulse could not be felt. His daughter began to perform CPR in an attempt to revive him. It was a dreadful long 10 minutes before paramedics arrived.

    In the hospital, the oxygen pressure in his arterial blood was below 55 (normal range is 75-100), a point where oxygen must be given to prevent brain damage. A tube was placed in Grayson’s airway and when he began fighting that, he was put under sedation for 30 hours. And then the agony – would he be brain damaged when he awoke?

    When he began to come out of sedation he first began to communicate incoherently in scribbled writing to his wife. Maybe it was the medication or maybe it was brain damage. And then he began to speak. A week later, remarkably, he has fully recovered, to the surprise of his physicians, and has all of his mental faculties.

    Befuddled doctors kept coming to Mr. Grayson’s bedside to say there is something going in within him that facilitated his astonishing recovery. The blood/oxygen numbers, acid/alkaline balance and prolonged time without oxygen just didn’t add up to this striking recovery.

    The intriguing part of Robbie Grayson’s atypical recovery is that he had been taking two herbal nutraceuticals (Longevinex® resveratrol and Protandim® herbal mix) that are designed to activate the body’s internal antioxidant defenses via a gene switch called Nrf2, to produce enzymatic antioxidants (glutathione, catalase, superoxide dismutase). [Experimental Clinical Cardiology ; Exercise Sports Science Reviews ]

    These endogenous antioxidants have been demonstrated to profoundly protect brain and heart tissues during experimentally-induced heart attacks and strokes in the animal lab. These herbal remedies permit long periods of oxygen deprivation without tissue damage. One has been demonstrated to do just that in the animal lab. [Canadian Journal Physiology Pharmacology ; PLoS One ]

    Of interest, there are two cases of the Lazarus phenomenon reported in children, both likely caused by unintentional hyperventilation during resuscitation. [Pediatric Emergency Care ]

    The Lazarus Effect

    What goes unsaid is the link between what is called “preconditioning” and the Lazarus phenomenon.

    If a person undergoes a mild or silent heart attack, the body turns on its antioxidant defenses. A subsequent heart attack will be less damaging to heart muscle if pre-conditioning has taken place. [Stroke ] Such an occurrence has even been recorded in news reports (Noelia Sernia). [Funeralwise ]

    CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is traumatic itself and can damage the heart. It has been demonstrated in animal experiments that a pre-conditioned heart is not as dysfunctional following resuscitation (defibrillation or physical chest compression). [American Journal Physiology Heart Circulatory Physiology ]

    Calorie restriction and preconditioning

    It is also well established in biology that most forms of life live longer and healthier on a calorie-restricted diet. So biologists decided to see how well fruit flies tolerated periods without oxygen when they were deprived of food.

    Well-fed fruit flies were more sensitive to periods of no oxygen (anoxia). These insects slumbered and were motionless during periods of anoxia and only a few flies “woke up” when oxygen was restored. The critical survival period is when oxygen is resupplied, which is when oxygen free radicals are produced and when these insects succumbed.

    A 3.5/hour period without oxygen killed most young fruit flies but it took 6 hours of oxygen deprivation to kill flies on the limited food diet. Mortality was less than 10% among flies subjected to food deprivation (but not starvation).

    A common problem during periods of oxygen deprivation is the accumulation of lactic acid in muscle tissue. Seventy-two percent (72%) less lactic acid was induced in the flies on a limited food diet. [PLoS ONE ] In Mr. Grayson’s case and others like him, he was given intravenous infusion of saline to counter the acidosis.

    Molecular mimicry of calorie restricted cardiac preconditioning

    Nutraceuticals like resveratrol have been demonstrated to molecularly mimic a calorie-restricted diet, particularly in the brain and heart. [Neurochemistry Research ] In fact, the red wine molecule resveratrol has been demonstrated to protect the cellular energy compartments (mitochondria) in brain cells and is most effective at the moment when oxygen is restored and tissue damage occurs. [Bulletin National Academy of Medicine ; Drugs Experimental Clinical Research  2003]

    Resveratrol inhibits the specific inflammatory protein (interleukin-6) that causes tissue damage in the brain upon re-supply of oxygen. [Journal Neuroimmunology ]

    It is possible some of the cases of spontaneous recovery from failed cardiopulmonary resuscitation may be explained by the fact the subject drank some resveratrol-rich red wine prior to the event.

    This is not the first time this has been observed in humans. Preventive cardiologist Nate Lebowitz of Ft. Lee, New Jersey, recounts the story of a fragile 90-year old patient who had been taking Longevinex® and experienced a complete blockage of a coronary artery that could not be re-opened by inflation of a balloon at the end of a catheter (balloon angioplasty). The patient recovered with no damage to that area of the heart, an event that was photographically captured via angiography. [Google ] Two other anecdotal reports of heart attacks among Longevinex® users without heart damage have also been reported.

    Don’t count on a defibrillator being available

    A stark fact is that sudden death heart attack represents more than half of all heart disease deaths and there is no drug (not even statin drugs) that addresses this problem. Regarding sudden mortal heart attacks, defined as an electrical storm that halts or disturbs the pumping action of the heart, which can occur among adults with no known risk factors (non-smokers, non-drinkers), there is no known prevention. These drop-dead heart attacks can occur without prior symptoms. [Circulation ; Medscape ]

    Even when defibrillators are available, less than 10% of subjects will survive. [Current Opinion Critical Care ; Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality & Outcomes ] Even in-hospital CRP has a very poor success rate. [Journal American Board of Family Practice ] Of those who survive CPR, fewer than 5% survive 1 month. [Journal American Medical Assn]

    Cardiac preconditioning is considered the best method yet devised for cardio-protection. [Molecular Interventions] The best form of prevention is a molecular mimic of cardiac preconditioning such as resveratrol. Excessive dose negates this effect. [Food Chemistry Toxicology; Dose Response ]

    The medical literature fails to link the obvious — The Lazarus Effect with antioxidant preconditioning. It becomes clear that the Lazarus Effect (a resurrection of sorts) occurs spontaneously following failed cardiac resuscitation due to the prior activation of internal antioxidants via dietary deprivation (fasting) or molecular mimicry of the same (resveratrol).

    The rare haphazard occurrence of the Lazarus Effect has not entirely escaped the eye of modern medicine. Sam Parnia MD, a New York physician specializes in bringing resuscitated patients back from the dead by harnessing The Lazarus Effect. He claims to have a 33% CPR success rate versus 16% at conventional hospitals. [The Guardian] His books ERASING DEATH  and WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DIE  are available at .

    Finally, of curious interest is the Biblical account of Elisha, God’s prophet, who came to the house of a Shunamite woman whose child had died and the scriptures say: “He lay upon the child (for exchange of body heat) and put his mouth on his mouth (pulmonary resuscitation), and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands, and stretched himself upon the child and the flesh of the child waxed warm …. and the child sneezed seven times and the child opened his eyes.” [2 Kings 4:32-37 ] ©2016 Bill Sardi Bill Sardi has a commercial interest in nutraceuticals.

    Addendum:  In 2015 researchers reported on the dramatic effect of low-dose vitamin D (less than 40 units) + low-dose resveratrol (~70 milligrams human equivalent dose) in the prevention of heart muscle damage during the period when oxygen is re-supplied to the heart (called reperfusion injury) in laboratory animals following an experimentally induced heart attack.  The animals were pre-treated for 14 days prior to the experiment.  The results were as follows:

    Area of damage to the heart upon re-supply of oxygen to the heart following blockage of circulation:

    No treatment 41.3%
    Resveratrol 30.1%
    Resveratrol + vitamin D 17.6%

    Longevinex® without vitamin D exhibited similar protective effects without the addition of vitamin D in prior experiments.  This is believed to be due to the inclusion of other ingredients in the Longevinex® formula.  [PLos One 2010]  The current Longevinex®  formula provides low-dose vitamin D3.

    Source: International Journal Vitamin Nutrition Research Volume 85, 2015

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