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Yale Experiment That Reanimates Dead Brains Faces Criticism

May 07, 2018 08:33 AM EDT
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Yale University scientists are able to successfully reanimate dead pig brains, saying the process could work in humans. Not everyone is excited at the possibility, however.

While the scientific advancements may be impressive, critics say there are ethical considerations involved in the experiments.

Yale Successfully Resurrects Pigs' Brains

According to a report from The Telegraph, Yale University was able to resurrect the brains of over 100 dead pigs last month.

University neuroscientist Nenad Sestan presented the research to the National Institute of Health. Sestan revealed that he used a system of pumps, heaters, and body temperature artificial blood for the reanimation process.

The brains were alive for up to 36 hours, which gives scientists a new way to dissect intact organs after death.

The team from Yale University say the process could work in primates, including humans, as it did on pigs. The technology opens up the possibility of human brains being kept alive after their bodies have expired.

The pigs did not regain their awareness, although, the researchers say it could happen in the future. The team did not attempt to do so with the Yale University experiment due to the ethical dilemmas involved, saying it's uncharted territory in ethics.

However, Sestan did say that it's possible for someone to take the technology and attempt to resurrect a human being with it.

Is the next step human reanimation?

Ethics Experts Weigh In

However, the prospect of keeping the human brains alive after the body's death is something that ethics experts are not keen on. Benjamin Curtis, ethics and philosophy lecturer at Nottingham Trent, points out that it's not a fate worth looking forward to.

"Even if your conscious brain were kept alive after your body had died, you would have to spend the foreseeable future as a disembodied brain in a bucket, locked away inside your own mind without access to the sense that allow us to experience and interact with the world," he explains to The Conversation.

Curtis added that the best scenario, in this case, is being left with just one's own thoughts for company. He continues that some argue immortality eventually becomes tedious even with a fully functioning body. With just a brain and no connection with physical reality, the prospect of living beyond the body's lifespan could be even worse.

Colin Blakemore, a professor at the School of Advanced Study at the University of London, tells BBC News that the techniques "sound pretty ghoulish," even to researchers. Blakemore stresses the importance of a public discussion about the process.

"There is a paradox here, and that is — the better such methods are at maintaining a whole brain, fully functional but without connection to a body, the more useful that would be for research purposes," Blakemore explains. "But the more likely it would also be for the brain to have some sentience and consciousness, which would be deeply worrying."

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