Yale researchers have kept ‘hundreds’ of pig brains alive for up to 36 hours after the animals were decapitated, according to researcher Nenad Sestan.
Sestan and his team use pumps, heaters, and bags of artificial blood at body temperature to keep the brains alive.
In an advancement that opens avenues for questions about philosophy and bioethics, scientists have achieved a strange feat: they can now keep pig brains alive outside a body for at least 36 hours.
There’s no suggestion that the brains are conscious – but in what Sestan describes as a ‘mind-boggling’ and ‘unexpected’ result, many of the cells appear to be healthy.
The team has submitted a paper on the experiments.
If science ever uses this technology to keep human brains alive, that experiment is a long way away and would have to pass many legal and ethical hurdles. However, scientists are already looking to the future and talking about what’s ethical, even for pig brains. The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate the use of “dead” tissue, like body parts from dead humans or animals, but what about “undead” tissue? If this research ever advances to keep undamaged brains alive in a jar, would that be humane to a pig or human? Does this affect our definition of death?
Sestan reportedly told a meeting, ‘That animal brain is not aware of anything, I am very confident of that.