Research

Zombie Pigs: Scientists “Resurrect” the Pig's Brain Four Hours After Death

Something incredible happened: Scientists have restored the cellular activity of the brain of pigs a few hours after the death of animals. This resurrection, which was carried out with the help of a complex system of artificial fluid, occurred four hours after the death of the pigs in the slaughterhouse. “This is an incredible breakthrough,” says ethicist and lawyer Nita Farahani of Duke University. “It challenges all existing beliefs in neuroscience. The idea of ​​irreversibility of loss of brain function is clearly not true. "

The results of the work, published on April 17 inThe journal Nature can lead to improved treatment of brain damage caused by stroke or other injuries that deprive brain tissue of oxygen. This achievement also raises a number of serious ethical issues related to brain research, which are no longer alive, but are not completely dead yet.

Is it possible to resurrect the brain after death? Seems to be yes

During the study, the brains did not show anysigns of widespread neuronal activity, which is thought to be essential for consciousness. But individual nerve cells still worked. “There is this gray area between dead animals and live animals,” says Farahani.

The experiments were carried out on pigs that were killed in the food factory. These animals were destined to become pork. "Not a single animal died for the sake of this study," the authors specified.

After beheading, about 300 pig heads wereplaced in ice and taken to the laboratory of Yale University, where researchers surgically removed the brain. Four hours after death, scientists put 32 of these brains into an artificial system known as BrainEX — a chamber with a specially developed fluid that replaces blood, which is pumped through blood vessels, delivers oxygen, sugar, and other necessary ingredients at body temperature to maintain brain function.

After six hours in the BrainEX system the deadbrains showed signs of activity. Oxygen and sugar got into the brain tissue, and carbon dioxide was released, as shown by fluid analysis. This suggests that the brain was metabolically active. Some nerve cells in the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, important areas for complex thinking, seemed healthy under a microscope. And nerve cells could still trigger signals, as shown by studies of individual cells in sections of the brain. Conversely, brains that were not in the BrainEX system have deteriorated.

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These results indicate that the brain mayeven human is much more resistant to decay than previously thought. “That's the whole point,” says study co-author Nenad Sestan, a neuroscientist at Yale University. This method offers a new way to study the brain of animals in laboratories, and experiments with it can give an idea of ​​how to counter damage to human brain caused by strokes or other injuries.

The study is also remarkable for what is in itdid not find - coordinated, extensive brain activity that can be detected by electrodes on the surface of the brain. Such activity may indicate some level of consciousness in the process. If scientists observed such signals, the experiment would immediately stop, says Stephen Latham, a bio-ethic from Yale University. “If this happens, we will have to regroup, because there is a unique problem of creating some kind of experience or awareness in an organ that is completely isolated from any living thing,” he says.

In the BrainEX system, the fluid was designed toto include a compound blocking neural activity; scientists suspected that too much activity of nerve cells would be harmful to the brain. Scientists do not know whether the removal of this blocking compound allowed more complex patterns of brain activity to appear or they would have manifested sooner or later in such a liquid.

Of course, on the human brain such researchno one is ready yet. However, this method in any case increases the likelihood that such approaches can one day restore some function in the tissue of the human brain. The rules of human experiments are very strict.

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