A team of researchers from Yale University have managed to keep alive between 100 and 200 pig brains for 36 hours thanks to a system of pumps and artificial blood bags called BrainEx.
While recognizing the ethical problems posed by this type of research, the researchers argue that their work could potentially be used to find treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and certain types of cancer according to the MIT Technology Review.
The team of neuroscientists conducted the experiment on 100 to 200 pig brains obtained from a slaughterhouse, according to MIT Technology Review, which reports a presentation of this work by lead researcher Nenad Sestan on March 28 at a meeting hosted by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The researchers claim that they have been able to restore circulation in these pig brains by feeding them with oxygen through a system of pumps and artificial blood bags maintained at body temperature. Thanks to this system, called BrainEx, billions of cells of these brains have been maintained in good health and capable of normal activity, according to the article citing the presentation of Nenad Sestan.
However, nothing proves that these brains have regained a form of consciousness, the researcher himself being “convinced” of the contrary.
These works have not yet been published in a scientific journal, says the researcher.
Nonetheless, these findings could lead to advances in how to restore micro-circulation, that is to say the oxygenation of small blood vessels, including the brain, the article continues. They also offer hope for advancing research on treatments for certain cancers and Alzheimer’s disease. This technique, however, raises many ethical issues, including some raised by Nenad Sestan himself, says the MIT Technology Review.
In the event that it is attempted on humans, would the person whose brain was kept alive keep memories, identity or rights? In a column published Wednesday in the journal Nature, 17 researchers including Nenad Sestan have asked for specific regulations to guide them in their experiments on the human brain.