Scientists have been able to bring the brains of dead pigs back to life placing the severed heads of the animals inside an abattoir.
While there has been no evidence that the brains regained consciousness, the researchers were able to restore circulation with a system of pumps, heaters and artificial body-temperature blood.
A team led by Yale University neuroscientist Nenad Sestan has worked on between 100 and 200 pig heads that they obtained from a slaughterhouse.
They found that billions of individual cells in the dead brains were healthy and capable of normal activity.
According to the MIT Technology Review , he explained the finding to the audience at a meeting at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Maryland, US as "mind-boggling".
However, when pressed for further comment, Sestan said that he had not intended for his remarks to become public.
“These brains may be damaged, but if the cells are alive, it’s a living organ,” said Steve Hyman, director of psychiatric research at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who was someone briefed on the work.
“It’s at the extreme of technical know-how, but not that different from preserving a kidney,” he told Technology Review.
The science involves restoring the flow of oxygen to small blood vessels buried deep in the brain. Theoretically, it also challenges the notion of death and could have huge repercussions for those with brain injuries.
However, transplanting a brain into a new body isn’t going to be happening any time soon.
But the ongoing research could spread beyond pigs. Speaking to the NIH, Sestan acknowledged that the technique was not unique to pigs and would probably work on primates.
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