​Brain Functions Could Be Restored After Death, New Experiments Show

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A professor of neuroscience, comparative medicine, genetics, and psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, CT, Nenad Sestan, and his team have restored some brain functions like circulation and cellular activity in a pig, 4 hours after its death. The experiment and its conclusions are challenging the preexisting beliefs about postmortem brain performance and introducing new potentialities for studying the human brain.

Although the research team reestablished the before-mentioned brain functionalities, they did not restore any electrical activity, neither did they find any sign of awareness or perception. The new study disapproves the preexisting notions that some brain performances are irrevocably lost postmortem.

Restoring brain functions after death

Researchers explain that the mammalian brains are hypersensitive to lack of oxygen, which conducts to neuronal death and brain damage. The domino effect of cellular damage and oxygen and blood-supply stoppage provokers are irreversible, so is the prevailing scientific understanding.

However, professor Sestan and his colleagues questioned the before-mentioned concept after observing signals of cellular viability in the tissue fragments that they regularly examined in their laboratory, several hours after tissue death. Sestan and his team designed and created a system called BrainEx to test their theory. The method imitates blood flow at average body temperature.​

Researchers bought 32 pigs from a meatpacking plant​ for their study and set them on BrainEx 4 hours after the pigs had died. The team found decreased cell death and restoration of some synaptic activity between neurons after 6 hours of blood transfusion on BrainEx. However, the brain cannot be called a living one, clinically speaking, but a cellularly active brain since signs of perception or awareness wasn’t at all to be found. The details of the experiment of professor Nenad Sestan and his colleagues are published in the scientific journal Nature.


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