Some cell functions are renewable, but not consciousness.
An uncanny breakthrough in science: One year ago, it became possible for the first time to partially revive dead brains. Now the study is available (Nature, 17. 4.). Neuroscientist Nenad Sestan and his team from Yale University took the brains of 32 pigs at the slaughterhouse and four hours after their death restored a few cell functions for a six-hour lab experiment – most notably the activities of the synapses.
That had previously been thought impossible. The neurons of mammals have enormous energy requirements. They die very quickly when the blood supply is interrupted and they are no longer supplied with oxygen. The system developed by Sestan mimics blood circulation. It also maintains the so-called microcirculation of the nervous tissue, in a fine network of tiny capillaries.
However, full electrical activity throughout the neural network could not be restored. Only it is associated with higher brain functions such as consciousness and perception. However, the authors do not exclude that with a longer circulation time also the normal brain activity could adjust again – and that even in humans. Thus, the living “brain in the glass” is no longer a worldwide fantasy of science fiction writers. Concrete applications are the testing of cancer or Alzheimer therapies on “naked” brains, or even a replacement for transplants. Of course, not only are many medical questions still completely open, but also ethical.