Scientists have been able to partially revive some of the functions in the brains of dead pigs, hours after they were killed in the slaughterhouse.
The team of researchers at the Yale University maintained that the brains did not regain the kind of electrical signals which are normally equated with being conscious. But they have been successful to preserve certain amount of cellular functions. The findings were reported in the Nature journal.
The research work has created confusion in the world of ethics, as it blurs the separation between the living being and the dead ones. Nita Farahany, faculty of ethics at Duke Law School said that she was quite astonished by the implications of the work as it changes a lot of the current understanding about neuroscience and the irreversible nature of loss of brain functioning due to oxygen deprivation.
It is known that the human brain is very sensitive to the lack of oxygen and it shuts off pretty quickly due to the absence of oxygen. But it is also known for a long time to the researchers that viable cells can be separated from the postmortem brain after its death. The main problem here is that it disturbs the 3D organisation and structure of the brain.
So scientists have been working on the technique to study about the brain cells in the organ itself, though they were not sure whether it would be successful or not. They named the technology as BrainEx, in which they did a fully detailed study on 32 pig heads.
The brains from the pigs’ heads were cleared out of the residual blood and the tissues were cooled down. Then they were placed in a chamber, where some vital blood vessels were tied to a device which pumped specially prepared chemicals for almost six hours.
The brains looked much different than the ones which were left to rot in the slaughterhouse Some of the molecular functions were restored and cell death was reduced. This has been described by scientists as a breakthrough achievement in brain study, as it converges the gap between neuroscience and clinical research.
But the researchers were worried about restoring consciousness in the brains. They constantly monitored the electrical activity in the brains and if they had seen any evidence of consciousness, they would have used anesthesia to cool it down.
The special solution used for testing in the brain cells consisted of an anti-seizure drug, lambotrigine which dampens the neuronal activity. Scientists are finding ways to tackle the ethical and legal issues related to the experiment and also on organ donation from the ones who have been declared brain dead.