Until not long ago, doctors would have said that a lack of blood flow in the brain was a definite and irreversible death. However, a team of scientists discovered that this is not always applicable, as they managed to restore brain activity in pigs’ brains four hours after they had died. Researchers already believed that it was attainable to take cells from brains after death and keep them alive in Petri dishes.
Lead researcher and Yale School of Medicine neuroscientist Nenad Sestan said: “This indicated that cells in the postmortem brain may still have the capacity to be revived.” The experts took the pigs’ brains and linked approximately 30 of them to a network of chambers, pumps, and tubes. The system, known as BrainEx, has injected a solution of artificial nutrients through the brains for six full hours. The aim was to imitate the part living organs in the body, typically have to maintain the brain alive.
The experiment worked, as the system successfully restored blood flow and cell activity to the dead animals’ brains. However, the researchers mentioned that the brains were never alert or conscious.
Scientists restored brain activity at four hours after death
Besides the monitoring of the electrical activity of separate cells, the experts also observed the brains’ behavior as a whole. The team found no proof whatsoever for higher-order brain activity or any sign the brains could discern the setting or experience sensations. “This is not a living brain. But it is a cellularly active brain,” Sestan said.
The scientists highlighted the aim of the study was never to restore consciousness. As a matter of fact, they had created measures that they would have taken had they discovered any type of electrical signals that can be related to consciousness. Instead, they hope the research will help create new ways to aid recovery after a trauma like heart attacks and strokes.
The researchers got the heads of pigs that had been killed at a Connecticut food-processing facility. Because the pigs were bred and butchered for the food industry, they were not slaughtered for the research purposes only, the scientists noted. The paper was reported in the journal Nature in April and was titled ‘Brains Brought Back to Life.’