A team of scientists from Yale University managed to reanimate the brains extracted from several pigs by restoring their circulation. Most surprising is that they discovered that billions of cells were still alive and healthy, and were able to perform a normal activity for at least 36 hours.
The research (led by neuroscientist Nenad Sestan, of Yale University ) was presented on March 28 at a meeting held at the National Institutes of Health. The aim of this meeting was to discuss the ethical issues related to the latest developments in the science of the brain, and it is likely that this work alone raises enough questions to occupy ethics committees for a while …
At the meeting, Sestan explained that they obtained between 100 and 200 pork brains from a slaughterhouse and that they used pumps, heaters, and artificial blood to restore the oxygen supply.
The Yale scientist clarified that there was no real evidence of recovery of knowledge or electrical activity in animals, which could be an irreversible condition, of death. His team did not try to reintroduce the electrical activity. What they discovered was a significant fraction of cells that behaved as if nothing had happened. The system is called BrainEx and the team believes that the approach could be applied to many different species, not just to pigs.
The direct application of this research is the ability to study the brain in a new way. It could lead to a significant improvement in our understanding of the connections between different regions of the brain. However, once the work is published, it will probably reveal more about what can be achieved with this technique.
The presentation has obviously caused a stir. There is an important ethical debate about this technique. Is a brain that works post-mortem an organ more or not? And there are many questions about applications beyond pigs. Could it be used, for example, in Medicine? The discovery sheds light on the ethical considerations necessary for cutting-edge brain research.
The ethics of brain research is also the subject of an editorial published in Nature today. Sestan is one of the authors of the letter who criticize the new technologies used to study the human brain and how there are difficult questions that will need to be answered as these approaches approach imitating a functional human brain.
The work of Sestan and his team has been presented for publication and was disseminated by the Technological Review of MIT.
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