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Researchers are keeping pig brains alive outside the body

exvivo brain tranplants

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#1 caliban

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Posted 30 April 2018 - 06:39 PM

Atfirst, the Yale group was uncertain if an “ex vivo” brain to which circulation was restored would regain consciousness. To answer that question, the scientists checked for signs of complex activity in the pig brains using a version of EEG, or electrodes placed on the brain’s surface. These can pick up electrical waves reflecting broad brain activity indicating thoughts and sensations.

Initially, Sestan said, they believed they had found such signals, generating both alarm and excitement in the lab, but they later determined that those signals were artifacts created by nearby equipment.

Sestan now says the organs produce a flat brain wave equivalent to a comatose state, although the tissue itself “looks surprisingly great” and, once it’s dissected, the cells produce normal-seeming patterns.

The lack of wider electrical activity could be irreversible if it is due to damage and cell death. The pigs’ brains were attached to the BrainEx device roughly four hours after the animals were decapitated.

However, it could also be due to chemicals the Yale team added to the blood replacement to prevent swelling, which also severely dampen the activity of neurons. “You have to understand that we have so many channel blockers in our solution,” Sestan told the NIH. “This is probably the explanation why we don’t get [any] signal.”

Sestan told the NIH it is conceivable that the brains could be kept alive indefinitely and that steps could be attempted to restore awareness. He said his team had elected not to attempt either because “this is uncharted territory.”

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Posted 30 April 2018 - 08:10 PM

The brain exists in dependent relationship with the body, it is not self-sufficient. There is no reason to believe that these brains couldn't have full activity if they weren't provided with the right mix of chemistry. At the very least, you'd need a brain, a liver, kidneys, thyroid, some kind of peripheral nervous system (real or artificial), and reproductive organs, or some kind of equivalent alternative, to sustain or reboot consciousness. Remember the dogs that got decapitated? They had their heads transplanted to other dogs and resumed consciousness. 


That being said, there's no reason why this isn't some great steps forward in this kind of methodology. Putting your brain in a robot body, or keeping it alive and conscious while a new bioprinted body is made could now certainly become a reality with this as some of the ground work. Very exciting.

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