A team of researchers recently restored the brains of slaughtered pigs four hours after the pigs had died, according to Scientific American.
Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine, led by Nenad Sestan, performed the procedure by connecting the carotid arteries and veins from the dead pig brains to a device that mimics a beating heart and circulates artificial blood. Depriving a brain of oxygen for more than a few minutes causes irreparable damage as cells start to degenerate.
At first glance, the restored brains with the circulating solution appeared to be normal. As the compound circulated through the brains, the brain tissue responded appropriately. The brain even consumed oxygen and glucose, which indicated metabolic functioning.
However, brain waves were not present in the restored brains. Electrodes placed onto the surface of the pig brains measured no electrical activity, meaning consciousness had not been restored — but this was by design.
The artificial blood contained neural activity blockers to prevent reviving electrical impulses in the brain. After the trauma that the pig brains sustained, allowing electrical impulses to be conducted in the brain could have led to epileptic seizures, delirium, deep seated pain, psychosis, and distress to name only a few of the possible repercussions.
The concept of applying this procedure to a human brain immediately raises ethical questions, but the implications are hard to ignore: What if a family member experienced serious trauma and this procedure could possibly revive them hours after the event? The procedure will not be tested, but it is an interesting question. Throughout history humans have been seeking immortality, and this procedure conducted on pig brains could be the framework for the age old quest.