By Joel Achenbach | Washington Post
The brain is fragile, and if deprived of oxygen – for example from a massive heart attack, or through drowning – it will quickly and catastrophically degrade, leading to irreversible brain death. And that’s it – the end.
But that medical orthodoxy now must contend with a major report published Wednesday in the journal Nature that is simultaneously fascinating and disturbing: Researchers at Yale School of Medicine say they have restored some cellular function in pig brains from animals decapitated four hours earlier at a local slaughterhouse.
Over the course of a six-hour treatment, the brains were infused with a cocktail of synthetic fluids designed to halt cellular degeneration and restore cellular functions, such as metabolic activity. It worked: The brains continued to consume oxygen and glucose. Many brain cells, including neurons, which send messages within the brain and to the rest of the body, ceased decaying and appear to have been revived in dramatic and detectable ways.
The scientists detected “spontaneous synaptic activity,” which means the neurons were capable of sending out signals, and the cells responded to external electrical stimulation. Cells removed from the treated brains and examined under a microscope had regained the shape of living cells, noted lead author Zvonimir Vrselja, a Yale neuroscientist.
The pig brains remained, by any traditional definition, dead. The researchers detected no signs of consciousness or any other “global” mental activity. But the study suggest that brain cells are hardier than previously thought, said study co-author and Yale neuroscientist Nenad Sestan.
“The death of a cell, or in this case, organ, is a gradual, stepwise process,” Sestan said. He stressed that the revivifying system the researchers developed, which they dubbed BrainEx, may not reverse cell death and restore brains to what would be considered a stable, living state. It’s possible, he …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Business