‘Partly Alive’: Scientists Revive Cells in Brains From Dead Pigs

In a study that upends assumptions about brain death, researchers brought some cells back to life — or something like it.

Comments: 223

  1. Does this mean funeral homes are going to start offering "Safety Coffin" options? A safety coffin or security coffin is a coffin fitted with a mechanism to prevent premature burial or allow the occupant to signal that they have been buried alive. A large number of designs for safety coffins were patented during the 18th and 19th centuries.

  2. @Gene Good historical reference! I love how superstitious they got. But no, I don't think they would do that. It sounds like it would require active intervention to restore functioning (if it's possible), so there's no likelihood that it could just restore itself on its own. I think it's a good argument for cremation, though. Say you die and your body is buried and then some Lovecraftian mad scientist decides to reanimate your brain. (Further suppose that you would maintain a stream of consciousness and the new brain wouldn't be a new person.) That could be traumatic! But if you incinerate your body, there's no chance anyone will try to wake you from your slumber. Or at least, there seems to be no chance for now...

  3. @Andrew Roberts It had little to do with superstition. Safety coffins were partly prompted by well-publicised media accounts at the time of persons being buried aIive. Only the rich could afford safety coffins. It seems to have mainly well-heeled, middle aged to elderly men who insisted they be buried in safety coffins. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safety_coffin

  4. @Gene Hence the etymology of the phrase "dead ringer".

  5. Great. Now we have become Frankenstein. With the state of world ethics (there are none if there is money to be made), what could possibly go wrong?

  6. Farahany is misrepresenting scientific consensus when she says that we had (or have) clear lines between what is "alive" and what is "dead". I believe that what she means is that we are confident in our ability to intuit whether something is alive or dead. But the line between death and life is blurry and mobile. There are scientific attempts to define a line, but no consensus that one actually exists. Death is simply when it becomes impossible for us to restore normal functioning. If we find a new way to restore normal functioning, we're not bringing people back to life any more than we are when we administer CPR.

  7. I'm disturbed that a bioethicist thought that there were "clear lines before (this)." Brain death has been a shifting definition for years, and resuscitating some portion of cells is far from resuscitating a brain and consciousness. And remember, there must be a body to go along with it. This should not be over-interpreted at this point, and although ethical issues arise, this is not the advent of floating conscious brains.

  8. I think the the use of the word "alive" needs to take in consideration biologic life versus what the individual feels is life. Even though they might have seen living brain tissue, that doesn't mean that there is life. I know in the US the predominant thought is to fear and avoid death, this I feel, has lead to a devaluing of what living truly is.

  9. @Juan Your logic seems flawed. If someone "...fear(s) and avoid(s) death...", it's because they place a tremendous value on life, not the opposite.

  10. @Greg simply. not. true.

  11. @Greg A total misconceiving caption of what life and death are in relation to each other. Death is not the opposite of life. Birth is the opposite of death. Life encompasses both. We live a full life, no matter how long it is, determined by biology or synchronicity or whatever you want to call it. People fear death because they are too afraid to accept the harsh reality and live their lives to the fullest while they are alive. The emphasis should not be on the fear of death, but the ecstasy of waking up alive every morning to face the beauty of the world.

  12. "some cellular activity" does not mean a whole lot. Humans can't resist the urge to defy death, it seems.

  13. FrankenPig coming to a theater near you. Joking aside, this is great news. Imagine the the advancements this technology could bring to so many areas of brain science and brain medicine. But, it may be a good idea to keep Big Pharma's hands off the rights to this. I can see the commercials for something called Brainluxa or Xunabrain or whatever. Make sure to read the fine print before popping the expensive pill not covered by insurance.

  14. While my initial thought was an entirely faux-macabre shouting of "FRANKEN-PIG!", my more mature response here is one of continuing wonder at the brain. Such a complex organ, in ways we are only beginning to truly understand. The brain and the mind are one of the last uncharted frontiers of science, and I hope people can debate and maneuver the uncomfortable ethical complexities of the experiment in a way that allows for continued discovery.

  15. Fascinating: “the idea that parts of the brain may be recoverable after death, as conventionally defined, contradicts everything medical science believes about the organ and poses metaphysical riddles.” Will this shed new scientific light on so-called near death experiences?

  16. @MBeier We already have a good understanding of near-death experiences. When the brain starts to die, its structure begins to change; any time the brain's structure changes, it can affect our conscious experiences. When a brain is deprived of oxygen, people often experience tunnel vision and brightness, which is easily interpreted through religious symbolism. Out-of-body sensations are common as the parietal lobe begins to malfunction, as this lobe is primarily concerned with the physical body. As the prefrontal cortex starts to malfunction, there are changes in the state of consciousness. Near-death experiences are so universal because our brains are so similar in how they react when they start to shut down. It's not universal, but it's common enough.

  17. @Andrew Roberts I disagree as Ive had an out of body experience in which my awareness lifted out of my body and I could « see » my body below me and I did not die or having surgery but in a deep meditative state. There is obviously much that we do not understand about consciousness! It was a very amazing experience!

  18. @Andrew Roberts What are the out of body experiences of pigs? And how many of these creatures are you willing to see tortured to death twice just to find out?

  19. Does this bolster the arguments made by the pro-life crowd, or turn it into something much closer to abomination? I can’t quite tell, but I don’t have a direct line to God, either.

  20. And thus begins the Zombie Apocalypse.

  21. What it shows is the brain is enormously resourceful. It can survive strokes, Alzheimers & be resuscitated and go on functioning normally. A precursor to man's immortality. We've underestimated the regenerative nature of nature.

  22. My daughter had a significant stroke in utero or upon delivery, (Drs aren't sure when.) Stroke occurred in the left Parietal region. The right side of her brain grew larger to compensate for the damage. She has Epilepsy that is controlled as long as she takes her meds. Definitely struggles w/psychological issues but that too is getting better. It's amazing how the brain compensates.

  23. This is beyond disturbing. The (only) ethical question now is “When is a living organism officially deceased?” And are/were these dead experimental pig brains capable of a delayed reaction to recall the horrors of their final moments? If so, they’re no longer just “pigs.” There may be a benefit to those with serious brain injuries or deficiencies and may some day represent tremendous medical and scientific advances for the human family. But what about countless other sentient species, whether mammals or insects? I am not comforted that this “breakthrough” won’t be available to human beings for quite some time. About 20 years ago, a novelist published a popular title in which an insane doctor, as his living experiments were about to die, took a scalpel and scooped out their eyes because he wanted proof of a “twilight existence” between life and death and that the living eyes would offer proof of his weird thesis. Science is one thing; cruelty and madness are in a different league altogether.

  24. @Red Sox, ‘04, ‘07, ‘13, ‘18 I agree totally. I wonder where our right to explore a possible benefit to humans ends... and another creature's right to a decent life begins? This research is way past that point.

  25. @Red Sox, ‘04, ‘07, ‘13, ‘ What is the book?

  26. The undead have risen - is this the end of days?

  27. @Sam Not the End of Days. But perhaps the end of Grant Proposals.

  28. Oh my - we still know little about patients in a ‘vegetative’ state or coma, or about the nature of consciousness (and how would we recognize it in animals if we are only starting to accept that many have emotions) ... Certainly being able to save the injured by increasing the time between initial injury and the point of no return could be a great advance. Or restoring full brain function by repairing partial damage. But I hope we will never attempt bringing back from death to ‘partly alive’. Although the new ethical problem is, what and when is death ? This reminds me of a fictional scene in Game of Thrones where Daenerys, in an ultimate bid to save her husband, agrees to a witch’s Faustian deal to bring him back to life; he does indeed live and breathe, but there is nothing behind the eyes

  29. @ml. Funny. When I read the article, I actually thought to myself that the pig is like Jon Snow awakening from the dead.

  30. So I can start hoarding for the coming zombie apocalypse after all?

  31. I see a minestrone soup, both in the comments and in the article, of vastly different concepts such as life and consciousness. If we want to have a constructive discussion, first we need to define what the different words mean to different people. Doing otherwise, we are just generating confusion and misunderstanding. Nevertheless this is welcome news because at least it will force us to think about the meaning of the different words.

  32. @Giovanni Ciriani Precisely. For instance, the concept of brain death is only meaningful because "we" arise from the the staggeringly enormous complexity of interactions of neurons within and between areas of the brain. When the interaction ceases, we are, effectively, dead. If it returns, we are not. The fact that cells are chemically active is not, in itself, important.

  33. @Giovanni Ciriani Thanks for sparing me making the exact same comment. Also, the author makes a number of other erroneous statements and conflates a number of issues.

  34. @Giovanni Ciriani After reading this, I immediately thought of the "cat locked in a sealed box with a poisonous gas" theory. The point being, is the cat alive or dead? You cannot know for sure; not without opening the box. Therefore, the cat must be "alive and dead" simultaneously. It is an interesting idea, truly.

  35. There was an article on the New Yorker called “What does it mean to die?” discussing a related incident. A girl who was diagnosed brain-dead regained part of her brain activity with her family’s tremendous effort to preserve her against the established norms of death. There could be an important conversation between this finding and that story.

  36. That there is a difference between death of the whole organism and death of individual cells at various sites in the body is not surprising.

  37. "Stroke patients who had gone as long as 16 hours with a clot blocking blood to parts of the brain have regained brain function once doctors removed the clots." So how does the experiment here really differ from the stroke example? But, I don't think there has ever been an example of a patient recovering from Alzheimer's or from a myriad of degenerative brain diseases - or aging.

  38. @David M I am 88 years old and plan to live forever. So far, so good!

  39. I am confused by the point made that nerve blockers were used to prevent a cascade of electrical signaling in the whole brain, as if they prepared for that possibility (I assume based on previous research with these substances) but "discovered" this concerning electrical activity in the tissue samples after sectioning. It seems implausible that they had not already seen electrical activity in preliminary studies which gave rise to the precautions taken with this whole brain study. What precursor studies led up to this pre-cautionary use of nerve blockers and were lower order animal brains used to establish this baseline of concern? Have there already been troubling ethical issues attached to the research that has led up to these findings in lower order animal models? Given the known intelligence and affective sentience of higher order mammals such as pigs, dogs and primates, can such work proceed without having the ethical exploration that this kind of research demands prior to proceeding. Certainly, researchers will want to waste no time in further exploring these findings, but isn't first defining the ethics of this kind of research a real imperative before plunging ahead? Fascinating findings.

  40. @Name I'm thinking along the same lines. If the brain has been sitting for 4 hours already, why would one need to use nerve blockers... ...unless maybe you did this experiment on a recently dead whole pig and it started squealing.

  41. There's no such thing as "clear lines" between alive and dead to a scientifically minded person. Cell life and death are biochemical processes and there is nothing shocking or unexpected in the fact that we are uncovering what they are and how to manipulate them.

  42. This shows how little we know about the ideas we call life, death, consciousness et al. When does life begin? When does it end? Where’s the boundary between living and non-living, consciousness and lack of it? It’s likely that there’s just a continuum between living, dead and non-living, and medical science has drawn artificial lines to demarcate the three. As the state of our knowledge advances, these lines will blur away and get obliterated. We’ll be able to cycle between the three states in the lab. If course, ethical questions will abound and there’ll be thickets of ethical dilemmas.

  43. Perhaps we should read Mary Shelley again, as we sail forth into this Brave New World of crisper gene editing and Frankenpigs. Just because we can do something does not mean we should.

  44. @Jasmine Armstrong I challenge this assertion. Not the "should we" part; it is a "when we" part. You know it's only a matter of time before this is done to humans. That is, if it hasn't been done already. Even though the human body was first dissected almost 2 millennia ago, physicians didn't truly begin to understand it until about 5 centuries ago, and this was in a pretty rudimentary form. So much has been discovered in the past century; especially the past 2 decades, I truly think this will occur within 25 years or so. I base this on the rate technology and organic science are coming closer to "each other". Again, I cannot help but think someone, somewhere, has already (at least) attempted this.

  45. @Jasmine Armstrong Right on! Josef Mengele and T.D. Lysenko were not canards nor tropes. The Tuskegee Experiment was as real as what happened to Henrietta Lacks.

  46. Mostly dead - according to Miracle Max. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.

  47. @David Eastaugh Sorry, I did not see your comment when i posted mine quoting Miracle Max. Great minds think alike. I wonder if ours will continue after we are mostly dead.

  48. Can and will we be able to use this on Trump supporters ASAP?

  49. You are assuming those brain cells were ever active. I’m not too sure they were.

  50. That anyone would consider cellular activity as life says far more about your fear and denial of our nature as mortal beings than it says about ethical issues.

  51. @Everyman Most people treat death as something like a bad rumor.

  52. Can you imagine being part of an experiment by another ‘more intelligent’ species that did this to you? Perhaps the creepiest sentence ever written: “Had the team seen electrical activity suggesting actual consciousness, they planned to give the brains anesthetic drugs and cool them immediately to stop the process”. Stop this Frankenstein cruelty now!

  53. A being must be aware of its senses to be conscious.

  54. @John I expect dying people would volunteer to be subjects - without the electrical activity suppressants - if some mechanism can be found that allows two-way communication (or even just one-way from the patient to request an end or continuation). It is a chance to live on, perhaps without the pain of failing organs. This is how medical progress is made, and why we no longer keep our windows shut to the 'mal air' bringing diseases that are better fought by good sanitation and clean drinking water, aided by appropriate antibiotics and other now common medical procedures.

  55. This is a far less troubling report than the one about Chinese scientists implanting a human gene into monkeys' brains and finding that it raised the cognitive abilities of the animals.

  56. This sounds like that Jake Gyllenhaal movie "Source Code."

  57. @Billy The Kid More like "Re-Animator".

  58. Jeepers, Creepers! I guess that with a little planning, I can now live forever. Simply get the right fluids, ditch this old body and wait for a surgeon to graft my head onto a new and better body. Ned Stark should have been and deserved to be saved. The Game of Thrones will get a new lease on life and will run for decades, maybe centuries. No more army of the dead. And Ted Williams may be suited up to play again for the Boston Red Sox in the 2019 World Series. Watch out, you Yankee lovers. And now we can learn "Who Done it' and solve all those unsolved murder mysteries. Just ask the victim.

  59. @JMT "I guess that with a little planning, I can now live forever. Simply get the right fluids" I would strongly suggest single malt Scotch.

  60. @JMT Ted Williams may be suited up to play again for the Boston Red Sox in the 2019 World Series. NO. THE SOX MANAGER TOLD ME THAT , SINCE TED MISSED OUT ON SPRING TRAINING, HE WOULD NOT BE ALLOWED ON THE FIELD.

  61. Death is a process. Cells do not die instantly and synchronously when the whole organism dies. This doesn’t surprise me in the least.

  62. Great, get ready for an onslaught of pro-lifers and animal rights activists. Instead of "partly alive," how about avoiding the "life" and "death"words and calling it something like "reconstituted" or just "activated brain cells"?

  63. Ironically it is the cryonics advocates all along who have been describing death as a process rather than an event all to a mob of knee jerk dismissal or ridicule. Perhaps a medically conservative approach to brain preservation is rational after all. Perhaps your mind and existence is tied to what logically remains of your physical structure. Preservation of life using cryogenic technology is nothing new as those who have at one time were products of artificial fertilization by way of being frozen embryos. They are living testimony to the murky gray line that blurs life from death.

  64. What an appropriate article for the Easter season.

  65. @Thomas Because ham is a traditional dish?

  66. @Mark Shyres You are fun and funny. Thanks.

  67. The line between alive and "brain death" has been unclear and disputed in bioethics for years. It is important or even essential for organ transplant. This research will make it even harder to preserve the very useful status quo. Death is both a legal concept, a social and religious concept, and a biological concept. Biologically it is the end of a process of dying that can take days or weeks. What this research tells us is that irreversible brain death might not occur until 24 hours after breathing and pulse stops. Many protocols now set that at five minutes. Some bioethicists have held the five minutes was always only acceptable based on the assumption that resuscitation had been refused. Thus was a patient determined choice, not biological inevitability. This research will be less challenging to those bioethicists who held that view than to those who wanted to preserve a more biologically essentialist approach.

  68. When I read what we are up to scientifically the latest information often acts as a kind of doomsday clock for me. In the meantime every day is a gift as a result.

  69. Very exciting news, indeed. We've already had a taste of what the future of organ transplantation will look like: lab grown tissue completely functional in future humans. This direction will also ensure the 'choice' v. 'life' debate continues indefinitely. The glaring part of the whole debate at present which leaves me unconvinced and quite bored is that neither side's most ready talking points consider what consciousness means. Sure, without a doubt 'life' begins at conception, but why should we consider a completely dependent set of cells alive which haven't developed the electrical signals we call consciousness? It's not as if any organ by itself could be called 'human', nevermind the whole body which lacks consciousness. Why should experiments such as the described one be considered any different? The brain without perception is not conscious in the way you and I are, which is why the future of this emerging field is so riveting both physiologically and philosophically.

  70. @Joshua Tucker I have to disagree with how you characterize issues of brain versus body tissue research. A brain that has already been a repository for the experience of living, with that perception already encoded neuronally, already structured bio-chemically in the brain, poses an obvious and significant moral concern in research. We can imagine that animating an "experienced dead brain" is tantamount to animating the consciousness that ordered all of that perception and cognition into a living sentience. Because the brain is the organ whose structure and biochemical function yield what we call consciousness, we might have concern that reanimating it via something like BrainEx could yield the functioning consciousness of that experienced brain regardless of whether there is ever any further nervous system input to "perceive." A "remembering brain" divorced from the body is not wholly implausible, and the ethical issues are quite different from those that arise from growing skin or muscle tissue in the lab.

  71. @Joshua Tucker "...why should we consider a completely dependent set of cells alive which haven't developed the electrical signals we call consciousness?" "The solution also contained chemicals intended to block nerve signals."

  72. We also know, however, that memories are context/cue-dependent. If the ‘experienced’ brain has no internal or external input, how is anything brought back into consciousness. Think: the brain itself has no pain receptors, nor does it feel, in general. Subtract hearing, seeing, and smelling cues, as well. What are we left with?

  73. If (I quote) "the investigators also did not want to take a chance that the brains might regain consciousness", etc, why did they do it at all? I am no physician. Much less a neurological scientist. This noted, common sense tells me that if one did everything these researchers did, how could they "not" expect some sort of "reaction"? I ask you, what is the point of all this if "consciousness could not" be regained? Even worse is "they would not allow it". Great.

  74. @Easy Goer I think that was in this particular situation....no one wanted a severed head to become conscious.

  75. There is just so much that is unknown about the brain, the mind, and all that goes on between the two. At junctures like these I believe it is essential to not rely on what has been taught in the past, but rather allow the evidence to take us where it leads. This research may be at the forefront of a revolution in medicine. As a counterpoint to that, the ethical dilemmas posed in pursuing this line of investigation are also formidable. I was heartened to hear that the team was more than willing to balance impediments to their progress with the ethics of harming other sentient beings.

  76. What do we mean by "alive"? "Dead?" What's the line between "technically alive" and "meaningfully alive"? if there can be a defined line that fits every member of a species (I assume the line will be different for each species, to one extent or another). Interesting stuff!

  77. I'm wondering if in 30 years some of us will remember seeing this article as the harbinger of a brave new world, a historical marker of advances to come that may be too mind-boggling to contemplate with the limited knowledge we currently possess.

  78. It seems with the development of human brain activity, even outside the body, science could development a communications system using electrical impulses to question for the answers of how is it to die?...and, what is the"life" after death experience? Could there be home units available for some beloved person or animal that a "living person" could continue to communicate with even after the body has died?

  79. So one more zillion-dollar emergency room therapy to desperately keep someone alive with crippling brain trauma who would otherwise be dead. Because this is America and we're entitled to the right to consume even after 'natural' death.

  80. I am a retired RN. This research re-commits my belief that a dead body should be treated with great respect. I encouraged family members to continue talking and physically soothing the patient even after pronouncement of death.

  81. @Gary F.S. Not to worry. Since this is America, the pharmaceutical company that markets BrainEx will charge $500,000 per dose for it. Whether a patient in the ER is able to receive it will depend on their insurance coverage. The uninsured will be allowed to die as a matter of standard policy. They would be the only ones charged the full $500,000, and there's no way any of them could ever pay that out of pocket. The same fate would befall those whose insurance pharmaceutical benefit does not include BrainEx on the formulary, possibly because the pharmaceutical benefit manager could not obtain a sufficient kickback from the manufacturer of BrainEx. Some people would not receive BrainEx even though it's on their insurance formulary. They would succumb while waiting for Prior Authorization. Or possibly because the quantity limits on the formulary would not allow a sufficient dose to save them. Since this is America, the medical-industrial complex would work its market magic to ensure that the use of BrainEx is optimized according to what's best for shareholders. That way, it would be available only to the most deserving patients, including CEOs, inheritors of dynastic trusts, and the wealthiest campaign contributors. That's the American way!

  82. @Ted Yet another reason to have Medicare for All. Vote for Bernie on 2020.

  83. Pandora's box has already been opened. Someone will eventually reanimate the dead for profit or altruistic reasons. What we do now is make sure the consequences aren't a horror show. People will pay for their loved ones and other important people to be reanimated. They will need physicians specializing in post-mortem care, and lawyers to define their rights, as well as other support professions. "What do you do?" "I see dead people."

  84. How sick and disgusting to inflict these cruel punishments on innocent animals. How many creatures do we have to slaughter in these aimless experiments?

  85. @Casey Penk I agree wholeheartedly.

  86. @Casey Penk the animals were killed for their meat, per the article. They were not slaughtered for the experiment, which does not sound like a "cruel punishment." If you disagree with this type of scientific study of left-over animal organs, I hope you're a vegetarian.

  87. @Casey Penk The pigs were already dead prior to the experiment

  88. I’m not sure about the ethical aspects of the experiment. but I am sure that dozens of new zombie movies and TV shows will be made based on this experiment as the virus premise was wearing thin. Like we need anymore.

  89. This is interesting to me but not for obvious reasons. It a person is not actually dead what does this mean to our criminal justice system and capital punishment. If death has to be redefined shouldn't the law regarding the death penalty and when applied?

  90. @Satyaban This comment is interesting to me but not for obvious reasons. Could you explain further... even just a little bit?

  91. "Even though there was no electrical activity in the brains, it may be possible to restore it,... " Take it with a grain of salt. Even if nerve cell activity was unblocked and some level of nerve cell communication was restored, it would remain to be seen whether these nerve cells would process information in any meaningful fashion, let alone support porcine consciousness. The ethical questions raised in this article seem no different from those raised in the end of life decisions pertaining to patients in a vegetative state.

  92. Remember those chilling moments you had watching Universal Studios B horror flicks. After you leave those childhood movies behind and if you have ever had a family member or close friend effected by neurological disease, stroke or damage due to an accident of the brain, this event might give you pause. What if someday someone you love that lost the ability to speak could talk to you again? The ethical questions posed by the dilemma of should or should we not proceed with research that could lead to various treatments (or lead us astray) comes a calling. Lengthy discussions about this should take place, unless you have lost the ability to speak.

  93. As a member of a university research ethics committee, I sincerely hope I don’t have to consider any applications to conduct research like this anytime soon.

  94. As a member myself, this would be an easy deliberation. No harm.

  95. As someone who plans to have his head frozen at "death," I'm gratified to see some progress toward my eventual resurrection. To all those appalled by this research, please remember the disparagement of organ tranplants and "test tube babies" in the previous generation.

  96. Enjoy your future as a disembodied frost-bitten head. Sounds great.

  97. @Len Arends What I have never understood is why someone would want only his/her head resurrected.

  98. @kenneth Storing a frozen head is cheaper than storing a whole body. I can donate the rest of my corpse to science. If they can bring my brain back, they can grow me a new body ... assuming my neurons aren't just scanned and digitized. Then I probably don't need the body.

  99. Reanimatetor! An ‘80s sci/fi behind the curtain rental. A cult mini-fave with exactly that plot ends with the scientists body walking around with his head on a tray. Old enough to have seen, healthy enough to remember.

  100. When a person is declared to be dead, it does not mean that every cell in his body dies at that moment. The hair and nails of corpses have been found to grow for a period of time. Why couldn’t the same be true to some extent for other types of tissue? This news will probably give the cryogenic believers something to hope for, so if you are looking for a good investment scam . . .

  101. Obviously these people have never seen (or read) The Princess Bride, or they would be familiar with "mostly dead." There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.

  102. @John Blue First thing I thought of when I read this story ....

  103. @John Blue If we’re citing literary adumbrations, consider “The Monkey’s Paw” by H.H.Munro (Saki).

  104. These researchers are ghouls and I for one am sad and concerned to see so few comments so far expressing any distress or even discomfort at the idea of playing around with these poor guinea pigs' (no pun intended, but there it is) brains. At some point they will attempt this on a human subject, not that that is any worse or better.

  105. Cruel and pointless 'experiments'. This isn't science - or shouldn't be.

  106. Could we focus our science on reviving a sickened planet, something meant to outlast us?

  107. We have to keep this technology from Republicans otherwise it’s Trump 4040!

  108. I am hardly squeamish about blood and guts (as long as they are not my own), but I have an instinct that this crossed a line. The pig is one of the most intelligent creatures on the planet besides humans. Imagine the terror of being revived for a moment or two, only to die again. Pigs are thinking creatures with feelings, albeit not exactly human feelings, but they can experience caring (for their piglets) a kind of joy when free to roam the fields, and a horror and unconscionable screaming when the farmer raises the blade to slaughter it. Do we really want to be in the business of inflicting that kind of torture on thinking, feeling creatures? And advancing the debate on this: no matter how we live and how we die, isn't one life enough? Do we have to be in the business of bringing back the dead? Are we trying to imitate "Pet Sematary?"

  109. @Ira I agree. Pigs are sentient beings like us. I've read that a pig is smarter than a dog and smarter than a three-year-old human child. I love pigs and their adorable little piglets. So I'm afraid to read this article.

  110. If they improve the procedure, could we please not bring back Nixon and Reagan?

  111. @Bob Wilson Reminds me of the show Futurama, Nixon’s head in a glass jar talking.

  112. @Bob Wilson Pres. Reagan's brain was physically scrambled, not sure that would help much.

  113. In her fascinating Madadam trilogy, Margaret Atwood wrote about creatures called “pigoons”. A species that came about when scientists tinkered with pigs’ cells giving them multiple livers and other organs which could be harvested for transplantation without killing the animals. It appealed to me as a vegetarian. This could be where we’re headed. Only one thing, the pigoons escaped captivity and were always eating everything the survivors of the great flood tried to grow.

  114. @MG You're a vegetarian comfortable with having organs harvested from nonconsenting animals for human use?

  115. @Eleanor Forman It was a work of fiction. I thought that was obvious.

  116. @MG So were all those early novels about space travel.

  117. With a semi-operational brain officially "dead" and the recent breakthroughs in brain-machine interface, will we see organic "computers" using human or animal brains? Someone will, no matter how horrific that might sound...

  118. The best news from this article is that there is hope for Trump!

  119. @BTO While I appreciate that sentiment, it also means that he might just be around a lot longer if he manages to 'buy the time'.

  120. @BTO He's not completely brain dead...it's just that the Right side is horribly weak.

  121. @BTO if somebody revives his "sells," there may be no hope for the rest of us.

  122. Mad science. Where will it end? And who are we to define what is and is not conscious?

  123. @Regina Valdez - There is no end, if some humans see a benefit. This should have been clear long ago.

  124. You can only ask that if you’re conscious

  125. @Regina Valdez Someone has to define that or we might all get buried tomorrow (by whoever is left).

  126. "How, he asked, will ethicists decide if suffering caused by the research — to a “partly alive” brain — is justified by the goals?" I don't see this as a problem. Can the "partly alive" brain feel pain, discomfort, or anything that can be equated to "suffering?" If not, there are no moral issues here. The article already addresses this: "If they fail, emergency workers preserve the organs with a portable heart-lung machine to pump blood through the body; they also insert a balloon to prevent blood from getting to the brain." Organs are kept alive, despite the brain having no consciousness. Is the body treated like it's alive, despite the brain being dead? No. It's treated like meat. There is no ability to feel pain or suffering of any kind, so no anesthetic is used when harvesting the organs. Is this cruel, or do we accept it because the body can no longer feel? If the restored cells have no way of feeling pain there's no issue.

  127. Heart cells beat in a Petri dish and we do not get concerned about that. If one took a billion cells from a deceased animal, not all cells would be dead. Life and death are attributes of animals, not of a collection of cells.

  128. @Ijaz Jamall "If God had meant for man to fly, he would have given us wings." George Winston to the Wright Brothers in 1903.

  129. @Ijaz Jamall - not so fast. Diseases like necrosis result in the premature death of cells in living tissue. Chemotherapy kills cells (and sometimes causes the cell to kill itself). The continuum of life and death start at the cellular level.

  130. @Ijaz Jamall, well said. This article basically swerves around basic principles of science.

  131. We will not be reanimating brain dead people for many decades if ever. Reviving a few dormant, dying-but-not-yet-dead cells is not surprising to anyone who has worked with lab-cultured cells, yet that is light years from restoring function to ~100,000,000,000 neurons, plus perhaps ten-fold as many other cell types, which comprise a human brain, and believing it would function like it did during actual life. Many people are obsessed with life extension, but what we really need to focus on is health extension; living well until death, then dying comfortably.

  132. @Steven Silz-Carson Is it not possible for science to be concerned with both ?

  133. @kenneth Absolutely, Kenneth. And both are legitimate areas of active research. I should have made it clearer that I see "health extension" as a much greater priority today than "life extension." Living longer does not necessarily mean that one is enjoying a goo quality of life. It is extremely difficult to imagine any sane person wishing live for an extended duration in miserable health. Yet I also recognize that there are plenty of people on the planet right now that live many years, or even decades, with multiple miserable, disabling, painful conditions or diseases for which, either there are no good treatments for, or live where access to such treatment is unobtainable.

  134. This completely reinforces my belief in cremation.

  135. @mh12345 What reinforces that belief? Brain death, or the possibility of revitalizing cells ?

  136. Can they start testing on brain dead human rightaway? It is technically testing on cadaver and if the brain is still mostly attached to the body, it would be much easier to figure if function is restored to a particular part of the brain. An reanimated cadaver with some brain function would likely be much easier to test for cognitive function than a reanimated pig with human being able to understand instructions and all. With progress, we will be able to repair damages to some part of the brain and replaced other parts with electronics. It would also lead to “replacing the body with machine” procedures and let a person live on way after the rest of the body dies.

  137. @AmateurHistorian "....and let a person live on way after the rest of the body dies." and who covers the financial cost of that "way after"?

  138. @kenneth Not merely the financial cost, but, medical resources being finite, consider that the cost of the entire mission required to keep a vegetative human alive necessarily comes at the expense of other humans who have much higher probabilities for living meaningful lives.

  139. This is amazing research and the implications of restoring brain activity 'after death' is one that has appeared often in literature and philosophy. At first blush, it feels like science fiction. However, another way to look at this is that it may be possible (in the future) to determine more accurately the meaning of 'brain death.' There are documented cases of drowning victims being pulled from icy water and completely resuscitated long after accepted time frames for hypoxia had been exceeded. It sounds creepy, true. But if we sometimes are able to revive people after five or ten minutes, why not hours?

  140. There's a lot of wisdom coming from Tibetan buddhists and other cultures in which the body has been considered to die not instantly, but more slowly over a period of hours or days, and that wisdom has routinely has been ignored by western medicine even though it may now prove true. Its always upset me to leave behind 'put to sleep' animals at the vet's, and deceased family members being immediately whisked off to the morgue, instead of being surrounded for some time by familiar loved ones voices. This article only furthers my concerns in this area, alas.

  141. And did you see the Israelis fed human tissue into a three D printer and out came a perfect miniature human heart. If there’s a chance to save me, just put me in a freezer and plug me into a wall socket.

  142. @New World then your heart will be fine, but you might die of pneumonia instead.

  143. Like Schrodinger`s cat - another proof that quantum mechanics is right!

  144. Can someone explain why this is substantively different than a chicken being able to run around for a few seconds after its head is cut off?

  145. @Jay Orchard yes, someone probably can.

  146. Maybe it’s because I don’t know what I’m talking about, but this seems like a really big deal.

  147. Another giant leap in the science and bravo to the scientists for their accomplishments! “When pigs fly” all of a sudden takes on a whole new meaning.

  148. Miracle Max the Wizard: Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there's usually only one thing you can do. Inigo Montoya: What's that? Miracle Max the Wizard: Search his clothes for loose change, "The Princess Bride"

  149. Is this brain alive, even for just a few moments? This is just mad overhyping. Consciousness and the perception of pain are so complex that there is no way that these pigs are experiencing suffering in these experiments. The "ethicists" and members of IRBs that are expressing concern here have not given this enough thoughtful analysis. And the vegetarian who is relieved because they're thinking that this will lead to less animal husbandry.....I wouldn't know where to begin...perhaps at confirmation bias. The concept of transitional zones in injuries like burns and strokes was around before I started medical school 40 years ago. It's interesting work for sure, but no where near the need to redefine brain death (hype) and I surely hope people don't ask to keep those declared so on life support hoping for this and other work to bring back their loved ones. I do like the Trump comments, tho.

  150. “What does it mean to talk about consciousness in a pig? What are we looking for?” Dr. Moreno wondered. Mr Moneno, no one will ever fully understand consciousness in any living being so why play around with other species who also have a right to live? Oh I read that the "pig" was used for meat you just played around with 25 heads. I got that.

  151. Great! What could possibly go wrong?

  152. I just want to read all the research that led to this discovery.

  153. I think that people need to be very careful not to give false hope to people. I also think that we shouldn't be trying to revive the dead. People need to die to make room for more people. This planet is too overcrowded.

  154. As Miracle Max pointed out..our friend there is Mostly Dead..there is a big difference between Mostly Dead and All Dead.

  155. The boundaries explored by these 'researchers' is so disturbing - and repulsive. I agree with another who has written here of the increasing attractiveness of cremation. These scientists seem rather mad and horrid. Don't wave solutions for brain diseases, just address the fact of playing with dead bodies

  156. There are reasons IRBs approve these kinds of studies. The reality of the matter is that at some point in the future our consciousnesses will be upload-able to some type of extremely high tech cloud. If that kind of future can liberate the decay of the human body, or at least allow people with terminal, chronic, and painful conditions to ‘live’ in peace, science should be at its helm. The point of medicine is to care for and treat patients to extend life, healthspan, and overall well-being. This is a logical future for medicine to arrive at.

  157. @Soleil Actually this provides an opportunity to better understand the brain leading to medical “cures” for the disabled due to strokes, AD, PD and injuries. I find it to be extremely helpful. Losing a beloved family member to PD, is to watch the silent slow death of who he was - a mentor, a valued sage and beloved by his community, employees and friends. For the future this may enable science to not waste human capital, instead make brain “injuries” to only momentary. The ability to heal what once seemed impossible is a god-given talent.

  158. Hats off to the brilliant people. Maybe these bioethicists that are so concerned that the pigs may suffer should get involved a little earlier in the process and decide the ethics of killing thousands and thousands of advanced mammals daily for meat. Should they be more concerned for brains that rotted from the millions of feed animals are that are slaughtered each year, than they are for these few brains rescued from the refuse piles? And before anyone says I am unfeeling or cruel, I haven't eaten animal flesh of any kind in over twenty years because of animal cruelty...........it would be interesting to know if these bioethicists have.

  159. @Eleanor Forman thank you for posting.

  160. Honestly, doesn't anyone think we have a duty to die at some point? While everyone is getting agita over this new study, just remember: in thousands of hospitals across the country, their are vegetative people who are metabolically alive, like these pig brains, but show no signs of meaningful consciousness. And thank goodness they don't, since the idea of a damaged but aware mind screaming and screaming and screaming inside a ruined body is something far worse than death. A few flickering neurons are a false idol.

  161. @Voltron. I wish the NIH would allocate money to improve quality of life not quantity. So many people are suffering with illnesses that have terrible symptoms and are not researched because meaningful research has not been financed adequately. Alleviating suffering should be the focus of medical research, not prolonging life. The NIH should change its priorities.

  162. Partly alive also means party dead.

  163. @CC Everyone is already part(l)y dead.

  164. @CC Oops, i meant to write partly instead of party...but, yes, the party is over eventually.

  165. "“What does it mean to talk about consciousness in a pig? What are we looking for?” Dr. Moreno wondered. Or consciousness in general, no? My guess is the differences between porcine and human world views are considerable (..except perhaps in certain Washingtonian enclaves).

  166. Despicable, horrible, inhumane.

  167. I guess we know how the zombie apocalypse is starting...

  168. This is ghastly:trying to resurrect pig brains in the name of science. Will they do the same with newly dead humans? Of course, they will and maybe they will do it with people who have donated their bodies to science. We will have the undead, after all. And, what if those human brains do feel or do have some level of consciousness? Will the scientists be ready to numb them or kill them or just make them comfortable as the folks in Virginia will be doing with the aborted that end up being born alive in spite of the mother's and doctor's efforts to make sure the baby is not born alive. This is some world we are in.

  169. Isn't this pretty much what Maester Qyburn did to Gregor Clegane in 'Game of Thrones?!'

  170. Oh my gosh! Miracle Max was right! In the wonderful scene from the movie THE PRINCESS BRIDE, the hero Westley is brought to Max by Inigo Montoya and Andre the Giant. Max calls to Westley: M: Hello in there! What’s so important (I forget the exact lines)? I: He cannot answer. He’s dead. M: (inserting a bellows in W’s mouth) Hoo hoo hoo! Look who knows so much. For your information he is only nearly dead...etc etc Remember?

  171. @C P Saul He is only Mostly Dead! Yeah, He has been Mostly Dead all day. Poor Wilbur!

  172. Pigs are living beings and should be treated with respect. To say the scientists are grappling with "ethical considerations" after the fact, is ugly. These beings should be left alone and not toyed with by others just because they can.

  173. @Julia this is how progress is made. We work on mice, rats, nonhuman primates, fruit flies. Many die in the process. This doesn't mean that appropriate respectful and ethical care isn't mandated. The ethical considerations going into this kind of experiment are myriad, but the scientific method requires sometimes revolutionary tests. Scientists have already learned that the brain has no proprio- nor -nociceptors, and if the specimen has no smell, vision, taste, etc. perception, consciousness is unlikely. Consciousness is context-dependent, and if the brain is 'alive' in the biochemical sense at most it's extremely unlikely it's able to do much of anything except 'be.'

  174. @Julia, I hope you are vegetarian.

  175. Actually, this study was done on pigs that have been slaughtered for USDA food processing use. So it was done with less harm than other animal work and it could even allow scientists to use less laboratory animals for studies in the future.

  176. So who owns your body after you have died? Have you relinquished control when you died? Does your estate retain an interest? Are we going back to the grave robbers of the Dark Ages? I'm betting we see a huge surge in cremation services.

  177. I have a tattoo on my chest that reads: DO NOT RESUSCITATE. Maybe I’ll have it removed. Who knows.

  178. Thank you New York Times! Now if you could please just tell me where I can purchase some BrainEx fluid and the hardware to circulate it (asking for a friend).

  179. Everything I watched on The O.A. turns out to be true! Where did the pigs jump to?

  180. @Dan Overeaters Anonymous ?

  181. "It's alive. ALIVE!" –Dr Frankenstein

  182. "You ate my belly!" will be the battle cry of the zombie pig apocalypse. Mark. My. Words.

  183. This is a nightmare. Was one of the scientists Dr Frankenstein?? Does the name Terry Schiavo ring a bell? I see "right to be dead" cases in the future, with religious fanatics on both sides.

  184. Frankenstein? You should have been around in the late 50s, when millions of people condemned Jonas Salk for his polio vaccine. It was all a "communist plot" to disable the youth of America.

  185. @RM Better tweak that DNR request!

  186. @kenneth We still have the cult of anti-vaxxers today!

  187. Can’t wait for the Catholic Church to weigh in on this.

  188. Great news for Walt Disney!

  189. @Molly Bloom He's spinning in his fridge.

  190. Now we have the unethical use of Crispr to make designer twin babies and the possibility of reviving apparently dead brains. Will we soon resemble the "advanced civilization" in Star Trek in which the body had been sacrificed as unnecessary while the brains lived on?

  191. @Barbara or on Voyager when Borg technology brought Neelix back to life after he was dead 18 hours leading to his existential crisis!

  192. Will there be zombie pigs in the next grade z movie?

  193. @Joe Runciter Soon to be a Netflix mini series

  194. Eventually technology will revive the death brain. At that time, religious conceptions about death will have to be reconsidered.

  195. It seems all my Frankenstein jokes have already been taken.

  196. It sounds very exciting; am amazed by current scientific findings. Would guess we humans will be extinct by our own hand before this does us any actual good, but it’s still pretty fascinating to be alive right now.

  197. Am I the only one who isn't that surprised by this observation? As a professional in the regenerative medicine field who routinely cultures cells in the lab, I can't say this result seems at all unexpected. Of course the heart stopping doesn't just instantly kill all the cells in the body, how would it? There's plenty of nutrients floating around tissues, metabolic shuttles, etc. to keep some small fraction of hardy cells viable at least for a little while. I'll need to read the research closely, but so far I call "way overblown" on this one!

  198. @Scott, I am sure the researchers jumped through a number of methodological hoops to keep the brains intact on their journey from the abattoir to the lab. At the least they must have kept them in a cool isotonic salt solution (on ice perhaps) to slow decay of the tissue down. There are no miracles.

  199. @Scott Well you see, Scott, a few of us others are not "professionals in the regenerative medicine field." I guess the author felt we needed this info to know just a little more about developments in that field.

  200. My point is that I worry that this is largely just hype. I've read the original research now, very nicely done work but it's being overblown here...I'd hate to see the outcome of this research scaring people off from organ donation and hurting the folks needing transplants that we work so hard to help.

  201. We can finally try to revive our Dear President’s! Yay! Oh wait, his is alive all these time? We won’t know, it’s so hard to tell.

  202. When you read the actual scientific article, you realize that there was zero, I repeat, zero electrical activity of these brains present. So, this is all just a lot of hype about nothing at all. BTW, individual cells live for quite a while in the dead human body. I learned about this decades ago in medical school, so this is nothing unusual or surprising, except for the current hype. Perhaps this is not part of the med school curriculum any more, so people now act surprised. But this is very old knowledge, IMHO. The longest surviving cells in a dead human body known to me were alive 17 days after death in humans. See link below. https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms1890

  203. @reader 100% correct.

  204. Zombies would be a real cheap labor force.

  205. "back to life or something like it"? That is a profound statement in itself. There really is nothing "like" life. it is like saying in assessing the binary code that "a one is like a zero or something like it." You need to know the difference.

  206. Instead of « reviving » people whose brain has completely dead, wouldn’t this be interesting to explore to revive dead brain cells and neurons for people suffering from Dementia & Alzheimer, Creudzfelt Jacob disease and all degenerative brain tissue diseases as well as stroke patients?

  207. @Charlene I think they are legally and ethically bound to take the slower route.

  208. More Frankensteinian and needless animal cruelty vivisection experiments from feckless biotech scientists who have no concept of ethics or the precautionary principle. Their covert goals and unintended consequences are straight out of dystopic sci-fi. The crazed machinations of the gene splicers, humanoid AI synthbot and chimera developers, and animal experimenters know no bounds. The other species we share the planet with are seen as machines, spare parts, and test subjects. Descartes, who nailed dogs and cats to pieces of wood and laughed as they suffered, claiming non-human animals have no feelings or value, would be proud of today's new crop of heartless, soulless scientists.

  209. @Steve Davies Are you saying you think it's a bad idea?

  210. I suppose if it’s going to start, it has to start somewhere. I can’t help but wonder at the (fine?) line between functioning and functioning - well - well. Absent other clearly necessary concomitant advances, reviving a brain that has been mostly dead is horrifying. To me, anyway.

  211. @vickster I can appreciate the fact that you find it horrifying, but I wish you'd tell us why. For many decades now, doctors have been reviving people who have been "dead" for minutes, sometimes many minutes and occasionally for more than an hour. So where and why do we draw the line?

  212. Just what we need. Another excuse to keep a human "alive" long after they've ceased being a viable human. Just as bad as all these that want to fund cures for orphan diseases.

  213. @Mark Curing a person of disease in not even minimally equivalent to keeping one in "alive" in a "vegetative state."

  214. Victor Frankenstein most definitely would have omitted adding the nerve blockers....reanimation, it’s always been a thing.

  215. Reminds me of Roald Dahl's short story "William and Mary", except there is no eye floating on the BrainEx...YET. PS: Dahl's initial title supposedly was "Abide with Me!" How befitting!

  216. I smell another AMC Spin-off "The Oinking Dead." And it smells delicious!

  217. Definitely Not Kosher

  218. All this really shows is what we know-your body doesn’t all die off at once.