A pig brain was kept alive outside the body for five hours using a new device developed by scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center, writes iflscience.com.
Human and pig brains have many similar characteristics Photo Shutterstock
The newly developed system allows the brain to be isolated from the rest of the body with the help of a super-intelligent artificial pump that takes care of the organ's blood supply.
To mimic real circulation, the device can subtly alter the composition of blood and adjust its flow based on a number of variables, including blood pressure, volume, temperature, oxygenation and nutrients. This is made possible by a computer algorithm that keeps track of blood pressure, flow, pulsatility and other factors.
In the study, the system was tested on the brains of domestic farm pigs (Sus scrofa domesticus). Once connected to the device, brain activity was monitored using continuous electrocorticography and deep brain electrode recordings.
According to the researchers, there was little or no change in brain activity and other measurements for up to five hours after the brain was isolated from the rest of the animal's body.
Photo by Shutterstock
“This novel method enables research that focuses on the brain independent of the body, allowing us to answer physiological questions in a way that has never been done before”Dr. Juan Pascual, study author and professor of neurology, pediatrics and physiology at UT Southwestern, said in a statement.
The scientists behind the device claim it could allow researchers to understand how certain aspects of the brain work independently of the body's influence.
Researchers have already used their system to learn about the effects of low blood sugar on the brain. This can often be difficult to study in typical animal models because the body can partially compensate for low blood sugar by changing metabolism, which changes the brain. Without the body, such a problem cannot arise.
Researchers are also interested in using this device as a cardiopulmonary bypass system,”the heart-lung machine” that maintains blood circulation during heart surgeries and transplants. Dr. Pascual said that this device was patented to test its effectiveness for this task.
This team of researchers is not the first to toy with the idea of isolating brains from bodies. Other scientists have previously isolated the head of a dog and a monkey.
The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.