WEDNESDAY, April 17, 2019 (HealthDay News) — The death of brain cells may not be as sudden, or as irreversible, as previously believed.
Four hours after a pig’s death, Yale scientists restored circulation and revived cellular activity within the dead animal’s brain.
The cells of the brain remained viable six hours later, compared with other brains not preserved using the newly developed process, the researchers reported.
It might sound like Frankenstein, but it isn’t, the scientists insist.
Although its cells were kept alive, the brain itself never displayed the sort of organized electrical activity associated with consciousness, said senior researcher Dr. Nenad Sestan. He’s a professor of neuroscience at the Yale School of Medicine.
“This is not a living brain, but it is a cellularly active brain,” Sestan explained.
So what’s the point?
The finding challenges long-held assumptions that brain cells swiftly and irreversibly die off once their blood supply has been cut, the researchers said.
“By doing this, we can possibly come up with better therapies for stroke and other disorders that cause cells in the brain to die,” Sestan said.
The same process that preserved the pig’s brain also might be used to preserve other organs harvested for donation, added co-researcher Stephen Latham, director of the Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics.
“It is safe to assume that if this works for preservation of brain cells, it would also work after some tinkering with less sensitive organs in terms of keeping them preserved and keeping their function intact,” Latham said.
What it took to revive brain cells
This breakthrough required the development of three unique processes, the researchers said:
- A specially designed blood-like chemical solution tailor-made to preserve endangered brain cells.
- A device that would safely circulate the chemical solution through the brain.
- Surgical procedures to isolate the brain and hook up essential arteries and veins to the circulation device.
Yale researchers named their creation BrainEx, and to test it they picked up freshly severed pig heads from a food processing plant near New Haven, Conn., Latham said.