Neuroscientist Nanad Sestan and a team of researchers took 100 to 200 pig brains from a slaughterhouse and revitalized them with pumps, heaters, and warmed artificial blood. The process also used a red perfusion fluid, which carries oxygen to parts of the brain. The “mind-boggling” result was billions of healthy brain cells that one would find in a regular brain. According to MIT Technology Review, Sestan speculated that the BrainEx technology used on pig brains could be used on other species, including primates and humans.
Not only that, but Sestan is also interested in experimenting with disembodied human brains for medical testing purposes. But the idea of “reanimating” a human brain could pose serious ethical issues. People wonder if the person’s consciousness and memory would be brought back to life along with the brain, and whether this type of research is ethical at all.
Current laws only apply to live tissues, not “dead” tissues, so Sestan would be free to go ahead with experimenting with human brains. In the pig brain experiments, the brains were connected to the BrainEx machine four hours after the pigs were decapitated at the slaughterhouse.
The pig brains did not appear to elicit electrical waves, which would indicate the brain was conscious. They did, however, emit a flat brain wave, which is similar to the brains of those in a comatose state.
The scientist believes that with further fine-tuning to the process, the brains could be kept alive indefinitely, not just for 36 hours. Also, Sestan thinks that there could be ways to restore “awareness.” The team is interested in continuing research with brain organoids, human-mice chimeras, and human brain tissue. They want to place any animals with human cells in a comatose state for ethical purposes.
Sestan did not expect his experiments to become so public, but his discoveries are opening up new questions about bioethics. Neuroscientists and bioethicists believe there should be new protections and rules surrounding experiments with brain tissue.
The Daily Mail speculated that this experiment is the beginning of possible human brain transplants, and could one day allow people to become “immortal” after the body dies. Some people even wonder if a human brain could be implanted into someone else’s body. Scientists do not believe this will ever be possible.