The good news? Scientists may have found a way to reanimate dead brain tissue.
The bad news? Scientists may have found a way to reanimate dead brain tissue.
If you're thinking that this is roughly the plot of Frankenstein, you'd be right.
Fortunately, there have (so far) been no successful attempts to revive consciousness in a subject, so we probably don't have to be on the alert for man-eating pig zombies just yet. What scientists have been able to do is to generate a small degree of cell activity in the brains of pigs who have...bought the farm, i.e. cashed in their chitlins.
The recent study, conducted at Yale University and published this week in the journal Nature, certainly blurred the lines between alive, dead, and, uh...everywhere in-between. So yeah, no pigs got up off the table and began demanding slop sandwiches, but blood (okay, a blood substitute, but still) began flowing through their brains, and there were signs of both metabolic and electrical activity.
The possible applications? Well, if researches can keep progressing in this direction...maybe the repair of dead or damaged brain tissue in still-living people or animals? Maybe resuscitation of someone on the brink of neural failure? Maybe bringing back Grandmama so she can tell us where she left her will and/or famous peanut brittle recipe? Possibly all of the above.
Of course, there are also major ethical implications and questions here. If brain cells can become active after its host has seemingly expired...should we stop pronouncing people "dead" altogether? Is everyone who's passed to this point simply...taking a long nap? Has Ned Stark been keeping tabs on his family all this time? It's enough to make your brain hurt. But no worries—someone will probably be able to just go into your skull, fiddle around for a few seconds, and fix it right up.
One thing is for sure—the next time we're noshing on a strip of bacon or cutting into a juicy pork chop, we're going to think twice: does this thing need more salt?