A study published by the journal Nature reveals that US scientists have partially revived pig brains four hours after the animals had died.
The study found that the death of brain cells could be halted and that some connections in the brain were restored.
The Yale University scientists connected dead pig brains to a system that mimicked pumping blood to the organ.
During this process, the brains showed a reduction in cell death, some activity, and the restoration of blood vessels.
However, the brains did not show signs of awareness and were fundamentally still dead.
These findings challenge the meaning of death. Prior to this research, it was thought that the brain dies quickly and irreversibly. However, the study found that the brain dies gradually, opening up the possibility to postpone the process, or even reverse it.
These findings provide a new way of researching brain diseases such as Alzheimer's. Furthermore, this could mean better ways of protecting the brain after traumas such as a stroke of being starved of oxygen at birth.
Consideration of ethics has to be taken when debating such a profound subject. The scientists took measures to ensure that the pig's brains did not become conscious. In that case, they would end the experiment.
However, this finding demonstrates that new guidelines are needed for this research. Although the process is not yet able to restore full function to the brain after death, measures must be taken to consider the implications that come with changing our definition of death.