Revolutionary Step to Immortality: Pig Brains Kept Alive Outside of Bodies

Pigs are seen on a farm run by Granjas Carroll de Mexico on the outskirts of Xicaltepec in Mexico's Veracruz state, Monday, April 27, 2009. Mexico's Agriculture Department said Monday that its inspectors found no sign of swine flu among pigs around the farm in Veracruz, and that no infected …
AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini

The brains of hundreds of pigs reportedly survived for up to 36 hours after they were decapitated in an experiment that lays the foundation for the preservation of human minds beyond their physical limitations.

Scientist Dr. Nenad Sestan, alongside his colleagues at Yale University, explained the experiment at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Once the pigs had been decapitated, their brains were resuscitated and attached to the “BrainEX” closed-loop system that provided them with artificially oxygenated blood.

The team found that billions of cells in the 100-200 pig brains tested were not only surviving but healthy and functional. Sestan called the result “unexpected,” even “mind-boggling.” He also claimed that not only could the brains be kept alive indefinitely with this method, but that they could have gone even further to restore awareness but chose not to because “this is uncharted territory.”

There are some pretty serious complications, however. First, that the same chemicals used to prevent the brain from swelling during the procedure could very well inhibit consciousness — leaving prospective immortals technically alive but ironically brain-dead.

This is not the first time such experiments have been attempted, despite being the most successful by far. Soviet researchers accomplished something similar as far back as 1928, beheading a dog and keeping it nominally alive with the use of an artificial circulatory system. In 1993, a New York University researcher preserved a living guinea-pig brain in fluid for several days.

The experiment is especially notable for the similarity in form and function between human and porcine brains. Still, according to Researcher Steve Hyman of the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, there is still a long, long way to go. Despite this impressive moment of progress, transplanting your brain into a new body remains “not remotely possible.”

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