Yale Experiment To Reanimate Dead Brains Promises ‘Living Hell’ For Humans
A scientific experiment to reanimate dead brains could lead to humans enduring a ‘fate worse than death,’ an ethics lecturer has warned.
Last month Yale University announced it had successfully resurrected the brains of more than 100 slaughtered pigs and found that the cells were still healthy.
The reanimated brains were kept alive for up to 36 hours and scientists said the process, which should also work in primates, offered a new way to study intact organs in the lab.
Although the pigs did not regain consciousness, the team admitted that it may be possible to restore awareness, and the experiments open the door to the prospect of human brains being kept alive outside of the body.
However, Nottingham Trent ethics and philosophy lecturer Benjamin Curtis said it could lead to humans enduring a “living hell”.
“Even if your conscious brain were kept alive after your body had died, you would have to spend the foreseeable future as a disembodied brain in a bucket, locked away inside your own mind without access to the sense that allow us to experience and interact with the world,” he told The Conversation. “In the best case scenario you would be spending your life with only your own thoughts for company.
“Some have argued that even with a fully functional body, immortality would be tedious. With absolutely no contact to external reality it might just be a living hell.
“To end up a disembodied human brain may well be to suffer a fate worse than death.”
How the experiment was conducted
The pig research was presented at a National Institutes of Health meeting by Yale University neuroscientist Nenad Sestan who said he had reanimated the ‘dead’ brain cells using a system of pumps, heaters, and bags of artificial blood warmed to body temperature.
In his presentation to NIH officials and ethics experts, Prof Sestan said the technique should work in any species, including primates – such as humans. “This is probably not unique to pigs,” he said.
The researchers, who are seeking NIH funding said they hoped to construct a comprehensive atlas of connections between human brain cells.
Prof Sestan said it was conceivable that the brains could be kept alive indefinitely and that steps could be attempted to restore awareness although he said his team had not attempted either because it was ‘uncharted territory’ ethically. He warned that someone could take the technology and improve it to restore a human being.