Scientists Brought a Severed Pig’s Brain Back to Life

The findings have sparked an ethical debate.

Scientists were able to bring a severed pig's brain back to life. (Getty Images)
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Researchers at Yale University announced that they successfully reanimated a pig’s brain that had been severed from its body, reports CBS. Scientists say they were able to keep the brains active for up to 36 hours. Yale neuroscientist Nenad Sestan revealed the breakthrough during a meeting at the National Institutes of Health. His team reportedly experimented on over 100 pig brains that they got from a slaughterhouse and restored their circulation using pumps, heaters and artificial blood. There was no proof that the disembodied pig brains regained consciousness, but Sestan said billions of individual cells in the brain were found to be healthy and capable of normal activity.

“It’s at the extreme of technical know-how, but not that different from preserving a kidney,” Steve Hyman of the Broad Institute said according to MIT Technology Review. “It may come to the point that instead of people saying ‘Freeze my brain,’ they say ‘Hook me up and find me a body.’”

The ability to preserve a pig’s brain without its body has started an ethical debate, however, with many scholars terrified at the thought of this procedure being used on humans. If a person’s brain were reanimated outside the body, would that person awake in what would amount to the ultimate sensory deprivation chamber, without ears, eyes or a way to communicate? What would the person’s legal rights be? Could researchers ethically dissect or dispose of such a brain?

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