Researchers from 21st Century Medicine (21CM) have for the first time successfully frozen and recovered an entire mammalian brain. This remarkable feat earned researchers the Small Mammal Brain Preservation Prize, awarded by the Brain Preservation Foundation.
The cryogenically preserved brain belonged to a rabbit, and using an innovative technique called Aldehyde-stabilized cryopreservation (ASC), researchers were able to return the animal's brain to near-perfect condition.
"Using a combination of ultrafast chemical fixation and cryogenic storage, it is the first demonstration that near perfect, long-term structural preservation of an intact mammalian brain is achievable," the Brain Preservation Foundation wrote in a news release.
The team, led by recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate Robert McIntyre, filled the vascular system of the rabbit brain with chemicals that prevent decay and allow it to be cooled to -211 degrees Fahrenheit. When thawed, the brain was found to have all of its synapses, cell membranes, and intracellular structures intact.
"Every neuron and synapse looks beautifully preserved across the entire brain," Kenneth Hayworth, the Brain Preservation Foundation president, said in the release. "Simply amazing given that I held in my hand this very same brain when it was vitrified glassy solid ... This is not your father's cryonics."
Current cryopreservation methods aren't ideal -- they lead to dehydration and the destruction of neural connections. While the rabbit's brain can't be revived yet, either, the researchers' success suggests all neural components responsible for forming one's personal identity -- including memory and personality -- can be preserved.
The same research team tested their ASC freezing technique on a larger pig brain -- more similar to the human brain -- and are currently awaiting the results of that experiment.
Their study was recently published in the journal Cryobiology.
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