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.
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.
Sestan reportedly told a meeting, ‘That animal brain is not aware of anything, I am very confident of that.
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‘Hypothetically, somebody takes this technology, makes it better, and restores someone’s activity. That is restoring a human being. If that person has memory, I would be freaking out completely.’
The experiment raises the possibility that one day human brains could be kept alive outside the body – or even transplanted.
The idea is a staple of horror cinema and science fiction – and some believe it could be the first step towards immortality.
Previous experiments included Soviet scientists using a primitive ‘heart lung machine’ to bring a severed dog’s head back to life in 1940.
A film Experiments in the Revival of Organisms, was created by the Soviet Film Agency – and reportedly shows the work of two scientists in ‘reviving’ dead animals.
The narrator says ‘The isolated head lives on for hours, and even reacts to external stimuli.’
Two scientists, Sergei Brukhonenko and Boris Levinskovsky, use an ‘autojector’ machine to reanimate the animals, by circulating blood round the animals.
The film caused controversy worldwide on its release.
The playwright George Bernard Shaw said, ‘I am greatly tempted to have my head cut off so that I may continue to dictate plays and books independently of any illness, without having to dress and undress or eat or do anything at all but to produce masterpieces of dramatic art and literature.’
What’s less clear is how real the footage is: the camera angles are sometimes odd, and scientists with knowledge of the project claim that the animals only ‘lived’ for minutes, not hours.