Scientists spur some activity in brains of dead pigs

Scientists Generate 'Activity' in Dead Pig Brain

Scientists Generate 'Activity' in Dead Pig Brain

The study showed the death of brain cells could be halted and that some connections in the brain were restored, the BBC reported on Wednesday. Intrigued by their observations, the researchers retrieved processed pigs for food production to see the extent of postmortem brain viability. After this, many basic cellular functions - once thought to stop just seconds after oxygen and blood flow cease - were observed.

So, it is unclear if there would have been any form of consciousness restored if the blocker had been left out, but the scientists wanted to ensure they weren't causing any harm to a potentially conscious or active Pig brain. Ten hours postmortem, neurons and astrocytes undergo cellular disintegration unless the BrainEx system salvages them. It also raises awareness for the possibility that scientists could recover or rescue a person's brain after heart and lung malfunction.

The research team found that the brains did not regain electrical activity normally associated with awareness or consciousness.

But, as Brian explained, further development of the technology could raise new questions about brain injury treatment, end-of-life decisions and organ harvesting.

Cell death in the brain is generally considered a rapid and irreversible process. The brain requires an vast amount of blood, oxygen and energy, and going even a few minutes without these vital support systems is thought to cause irreversible damage. Molecular impairments then activate widespread degeneration of the brain.

"It is safe to assume that if this works for preservation of brain cells, it would also work after some tinkering with less sensitive organs in terms of keeping them preserved and keeping their function intact", Latham said.

They found that certain neuronal, glial, and vascular cell functionality was restored. The system can help researchers perform specific techniques to study the structure and function of a large and intact mammalian brain. "For the first time, we are able to investigate the large brain in three dimensions, which increases our ability to study complex cellular interactions and connectivity". "This has never been done before in a large intact mammalian brain".

"This is definitely one of those technologies that forces us to confront a lot of hard questions and seems like it's going to make things a little bit hard for doctors, for patients and for scientists, who are trying to figure out what we do and don't know about the brain and what's possible", said bioethicist Jenny Brian of Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University.

The science is still a very long way from having applications in human brains, and the findings in no way suggest the brain was alive, the research team and other scientists stressed. The chemical solution used lacks numerous components natively found in human blood, such as the immune system and other blood cells, which makes the experimental system significantly different from normal living conditions. However, the researchers stress that any future study involving human tissue or possible revival of global electrical activity in postmortem animal tissue should be done under strict ethical oversight.

She said researchers had inadvertently created an ethical grey area where the pigs used were "not alive, but not completely dead".

The findings of the research were published Wednesday in Nature, an worldwide science publication. The National Institutes of Health's BRAIN Initiative funded the research.