Scientists successfully brought back some functions to the brain of a pig that had already been dead for several hours.
In a study featured in the journal Nature, researchers at Yale University were able to restore cellular and circulation functions to the animal's brain four hours after it had died. Such processes are long thought to cease almost immediately after blood flow and oxygenation ceases in the body.
Restoring Function To The Dead Pig's Brain
Prof. Nenad Sestan, one of the authors of the study, noted that mammal brains can retain their capacity to restore circulation and even some cellular and molecular activities several hours after the body has stopped functioning.
The researchers made use of an artificial perfusion system known as BrainEx to pump the pig's brain with an experimental solution that essentially mimicked regular blood flow. This gave the organ the necessary oxygen and nutrients it needed to trigger some of its normal functions.
Despite this breakthrough, Sestan and his colleagues clarified that they were not able to reawaken consciousness in the dead pig since its brain did not produce any recognizable global electrical signals typically found in normally functioning organ.
The experiment's goal was never to create a horde of zombie pigs, or even zombie humans for that matter. The researchers hope that the study can help doctors come up with new ways to preserve normal brain function in stroke patients. It can also be used to determine the efficacy of new treatments meant for cellular recovery following an injury.
The National Institutes of Health, which primarily funded the research, said the findings could help advance understanding and treatment of brain disorders. They could also lead to the development of a method of studying dead human brains.
Resurrecting The Brain-Dead Through Stem Cell Injections
While the Yale University study was able to restore some functions to a dead brain, it can hardly be considered an actual revival of the dead. In fact, the researchers themselves did not have restoration of consciousness as part of its goals.
They were fully aware of the potential implications to ethical standards such as an experiment would entail. However, some studies might actually be willing to cross that controversial threshold.
In 2017, Philadelphia-based medical tech company Bioquark announced its goal of using stem cell research to reverse the effects of death. The experiment will have clinically brain-dead patients injected with stem cells directly into their spinal cords. They will also receive protein blend injections, electrical nerve stimulation, and laser therapies targeted at their brains.
The company believes it can bring the human brain back to life by allowing new neurons to grow and spurring them to connect to each other.
Researchers were supposed to start trials for the study in India in 2016, but the project was never able to enroll any participants. The project was reportedly shut down by regulators since it did not receive proper clearance from the country's Drug Controller General.
Bioquark's idea has been met with heavy criticism from medical experts, with some claiming that it "borders on quackery." Doctors argued that the study does not have any scientific foundation and that it only gives families of patients with "a cruel, false hope for recovery."
Earlier studies have shown that injecting the brain or spinal cord with stem cells can produce positive results, especially in children suffering from brain injuries. There have also been trials where ALS and cerebral palsy patients received stem cell treatment for their conditions.
One study also suggested that stem cell injections into the brain can help stroke patients recover some mobility.
Transferring Brains To Artificial Bodies
If stem cell injections prove to be insufficient to restore the human body, there is also the idea of transferring human brains to artificial bodies. That is exactly what tech start-up Humai promises to provide its members.
The company said it plans to use artificial intelligence and nanotechnology to store large amounts of data on people's behavioral patterns, conversational styles, thought processes, and other information about their body functions.
The data will then be coded into multiple sensor technologies, which the company will use to create an artificial body where the brain of the dead client will be placed.
Humai plans to roll out its death-defying processes in 30 years' time.