Researchers were able to induce blood circulation and also cellular function in pigs’ brains. It was for a period of up to four hours after they died. This was according to a paper published on April 17th, 2019 in Nature. Researchers reported observations of spontaneous synaptic activities plus metabolism and also a reduction of cell deaths in the brains of pigs. However, there was absence of global brain activity.
The new technology opened up opportunities to examine the complex cell and circuit connections and the functions that are lost when specimens are preserved using other ways. This is according to what Andrea Beckel-Mitchener of the National Institute of Mental Health said in a press release. She did not take part in the project but the research was co-funded by her agency.
A system called BrainEx was developed and could deliver artificial blood to a pig’s brain that was isolated.
The study challenged the assumption that the brains of mammals are irreversibly damaged moments after blood circulation stops. However, the brains never exhibited neural activity which would suggest consciousness. These were the comments of Stuart Youngner and Insoo Hyun of Case Western Reverse University School of Medicine. They brought up ethical issues in regard to resuscitating and reviving patients coming from organ donation protocols. This is during the period when a brain-dead state is declared. According to them, discussions were necessary. These were to help clarify the criteria that would make one eligible for organ donation or resuscitation.
The team never observed electrical activity. This was partly because of the nerve blockers present in the artificial blood. They would have observed electrical activity had they used the shock treatment like the one used on hearts. This was suggested by Henry Greely of Stanford University, Charles Giattino of Duke University and Nita Farahany of Duke University.
They said that for research that involved preservation or restoration of brains, they had to employ new guidelines. Jonathan Moreno of the University of Pennsylvania also made suggestions to the New York Times. He said that this could merit big public deliberations on science and medicine ethics.
Nature reported that the researchers were monitoring the brains of the pigs. In case the pigs showed signs of regaining consciousness, they were ready to administer anesthetics.
Researchers might be interested in carrying out experiments on brains that could regain some levels of consciousness. It could be ethically justifiable in some cases such as in the study of neurodegenerative diseases drug testing. This was according to Stephen Latham of Yale University. There is need for these kinds of treatments for patients with strokes or other brain injuries. This was in accordance to what L. Syd M Johnson of Michigan Technological University told The Atlantic.
Christof Koch of the Allen Institute told Nature that for a long time in human history, death was simple. Now we can raise questions on what is irreversible.
- Restoration of brain circulation and cellular functions hours post-mortem
- For The First Time Ever, Scientists Restore Some Cellular Function in Dead Brains
- Scientists Restore Some Function In The Brains Of Dead Pigs
- Hou, C.-Y. (2019, April 17). The Scientist. Retrieved April 19, 2019, from www.the-scientist.com: https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/circulation-and-cell-function-revived-in-dead-pigs-brains-65751