The pigs were dead. But four hours later, scientists restored cellular functions in their brains

Researchers reported they were able to restore some molecular and cellular functions in brains from dead pigs, but took pains to say the brains were not "living."
Source: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

The pigs came straight from the slaughterhouse, where workers had severed their jugular vein and carotid artery and then decapitated them. But starting four hours after the animals’ brains had flat-lined and for the next six hours, the brains became … well, a little less dead, scientists at Yale University reported on Wednesday.

By attaching the brains to a specially constructed device and running souped-up artificial blood through them, the researchers said they were able to restore some of the brains’ molecular and cellular functions, including spontaneous electrical activity in neurons and such signature metabolic functions as consuming oxygen and glucose.

Although the pig brains showed none of the organized, cortex-wide electrical activity associated with consciousness, sensory perception, pain, distress, or other higher-order functions, the experiment challenges long-held medical dogma and is likely to reignite an impassioned debate about what constitutes brain death, especially for the purpose of organ donation.

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