Doctors ‘Reanimated’ Pig Brains. What Does This Mean for Humans?

Doctors ‘Reanimated’ Pig Brains. What Does This Mean for Humans?

Scientists at Yale University have found a way to keep pig brains alive despite being decapitated from their bodies. These pig brains were kept alive and functioning for 36 hours. This has been accomplished by using a machine called BrainEx, which is a system of closed tubes that circulates a body temperature, artificial blood through the brain, keeping it alive.

Although this study is a breakthrough in itself and may be capable of keeping primate brains alive, this does not mean they have cracked the immortality case.  This new ability might allow us to be able to study brain diseases in a better way, but it is in no way a means to preserving life.

This study has also brought about the more philosophical questions about what makes people themselves and if the brain is central to a person’s being. Brain transplants would be the next place someone might look after finding out we can preserve a brain during times of trauma to the body or the brain itself, such as a stroke, but it is far more complicated than that. The question of brain death also comes into play, and if these brains that are reanimated are still conscious.

So far, it appears that while the brains are kept alive, they are mostly brain dead and simply survive but without consciousness or cognitive ability.

Key Points:

  • 1Scientists at Yale University claim to have successfully kept alive the brains of decapitated pigs for 36 hours.
  • 2Using a special apparatus known as BrainEx, researchers were able to circulate oxygen throughout the brains with a perfusion fluid. However, the brains showed no signs of consciousness.
  • 3Sestan’s work may also serve to further muddy the waters by giving hope to some that a brain, and therefore a person, might somehow be kept alive, even in the absence of a body.

Unlike clinical death — defined by the stopping of certain biological functions, such as breathing and heart rate — brain death is a state in which an individual may still be physically alive but with little or no cognitive ability.

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