Science in 2019 is a bit frightening, if we’re being honest.
First, we have the undeniable and damning influx of digital technology into our daily lives. Whether it be biometric applications such as facial recognition, or social media’s constant monitoring and monetizing of our browsing habits, we are being constantly harvested by “the powers that be” for whatever information we’re willing to give up.
On the other end of the spectrum, however, science is moving in to realms that were once even further buried in the annals of science fiction.
Enter the Frankenstein-like experiments now being revealed at Yale University.
A new experiment has raised medical and ethical questions as serious as those surrounding human gene editing: A support system delivering artificial blood to pig brains prevented degradation of important neural functions, Yale researchers discovered.
Dr. Nenad Sestan, senior author of the new study and a professor of neuroscience, noted that blood flow and some energy use could be seen in the dead brains, but the neural circuits showed no higher-level function, including the global electrical activity needed for awareness.
Still, this new experimental system, called BrainEx (for ex vivo, or outside the body), may have “broader applications” — some relevant to humans, Sestan and his co-authors wrote: “This possibility raises important ethical considerations that must be addressed.”
And while the experiment won’t be bringing anyone back from the dead anytime soon, the results were shocking to mainstream science nonetheless.
Andrea Beckel-Mitchener, team lead of the BRAIN Initiative at the National Institute of Mental Health, noted that the experiment “did not show resurgence or recovery of normal brain function; it was resiliency of brain tissue.” Still, she said, the result was surprising in that it was not known that “brain cells can maintain some healthy function hours after loss of blood flow.”
The revelation comes amid a flurry of ethically ambiguous bioengineering experiments that have taken place outside of the United States, particularly in China, where human genetic material was being edited into the genomes of primates.
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