Restoring function to a pig’s brain

You read that right: circulation and cellular activity were restored in a pig’s brain four hours after its death. We look at this experiment that challenges our assumptions about the permanence of death.

We’ll be honest: this one is a little complicated for us to understand. But the implications are huge. A team of researchers from Yale University,¬†Connecticut, took a brain from a dead pig, isolated it and pumped a specially designed chemical solution through it. Staggeringly, many of the basic cellular functions that we previously believed to stop a few seconds after blood flow is cut off, were observed. Now, we’re not talking about it waking up and going back to being a pig, but the results raise massive questions about our understanding of cellular death.

Naturally the drawing any wider conclusions from the experiment would be risky and the science is clearly still in its earliest days. All the same, at the rate we’re progressing it’s exciting to picture what it might lead to. It was only 40 years ago that we performed the first heart transplant, and surgeons are now predicting that in just three years we’ll be able to transplant a pig’s heart into a human. Imagine where we’ll be with reanimated pig brains in 45 years time?

The study also opens up other possibilities: rather than being to studying small tissue samples from the brain, scientists will be able to study the it in much greater detail than ever before. It’s hoped that it’ll allow us to understand more about brain disorders as well as neuronal connectivity.

It might be that we don’t have to worry about an army of zombie pigs, but if this research lets us understand how brains work, the implications could redefine modern medicine.