For the first time, researchers have managed to keep two pig brains alive outside their bodies by connecting them to a machine that maintains various variables, such as blood pressure and blood flow, at the correct levels. The UT Southwestern Medical Center scientists behind this feat published their work in the journal Scientific Reports.
A machine that keeps the brain supplied with blood
They managed the feat of making the brain function independently of the rest of the body for several hours. To do this, they cut the organ’s main arteries – the ones that connect it to the rest of the body – and connected them to an extracorporeal pulsatile circulatory control (EPCC).
The EPCC is a specialized machine consisting of a pipe and a pump controlled by a computer system. This device mimics the exchanges that the brain normally has with the body, making it possible to maintain various variables – such as blood pressure, blood flow, and pulsatility – at values close to the original values, the authors note in their study. In this way, natural blood flow is maintained thanks to the EPCC.
The brain worked without the body for 5 hours
The researchers installed electrodes in the brain to monitor its activity. The result: for five hours, the brain was adequately oxygenated, nourished, and kept in good condition.
“This new method allows us to study the brain independently of the body and, thanks to it, we will be able to answer physiological questions in an unprecedented way,” explains Juan Pascual, professor of Neurology, Pediatrics, and Physiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center and lead author of the study, in a press release.
So this discovery could lead to others. In the future, researchers could use it to study the brain independently of the factors that affect it, or by isolating a specific factor. For example, to analyze only the impact of blood pressure on the brain, regardless of blood sugar levels or other factors.
Another possible application of this discovery: isolating the brain from the rest of the body during surgery to avoid harmful side effects. But before this device can be used on humans, it still needs to be tested in clinical trials.
Shariff, M., Dobariya, A., Albaghdadi, O. et al. Maintenance of pig brain function under extracorporeal pulsatile circulatory control (EPCC). Sci Rep 13, 13942 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-39344-7