Science News

Rabbit Brain Returns From Cryogenic Deep-Freeze With Neurons Intact

Image via Pixabay

The staple science-fiction movie plot of reawakening a frozen brain has come one step closer to reality, according to a recent piece in Newsweek. The article cites findings by a team of researchers claiming to have successfully preserved a rabbit’s brain by means of a process that “ensures that the ultrastructure of the brain will not degrade even over very long storage times”, bringing us much nearer to the likelihood that an artificially preserved human brain may one day be brought back to life.

Past attempts at preserving mammal brains by way of deep-freezing have proven far from satisfactory, as they have invariably caused acute dehydration, rendering inoperative those parts of the organ that are essential to memory and learning processes. However a group of neurobiologists, lead by MIT-graduate Robert McIntyre at 21st Century Medicine (21CM), recently published a study in the scientific journal Cryobiology claiming that to have successfully preserved a rabbit’s brain by means of a new chemical process that permits long-term storage without causing damage to synaptic circuitry.

McIntyre’s team perfected an existing cryogenic technique, previously employed by colleagues at 21CM in order to preserve kidneys, that involves flooding the brain with a chemical disinfectant called glutaraldehyde that acts to stabilize proteins within the vascular system, before then cooling the brain to -211 degrees Fahrenheit (-135 degrees Celsius). Consequently the brain can be almost indefinitely preserved, without risk of damage to neurons and synapses.

21CM’s research attracted the attention of the Brain Preservation Foundation (BPF), a non-profit organization promoting neuroscientific research, that has awarded McIntrye’s team the $26,735 Small Mammal Brain Preservation Prize. Speaking to Newsweek, BPF psychiatrist Michael Cerullo confirmed that following 21CM’s “Aldehyde-Stabilized Cryopreservation” process, the frozen rabbit brain appeared to be in near perfect condition:

The brain was able to be sliced and viewed in an electron microscope which suggested that all the connections had been preserved

Not content with what is already a significant neurobiological breakthrough, McIntyre’s team have set their sights on the preservation of larger mammal brains and now claim to have preserved a pig’s cerebral organ. This latter project has yet to be examined by the BPF, but, if found to be successful, moves us even closer to the prospect of perfectly preserving human brains until such a time when they might be recovered and reactivated – in the manner of Frankenstein’s Monster. For now such an eventuality remains firmly in the realms of fantasy, yet McIntyre is adamant that such a scenario could indeed become a realistic possibility sometime in the future:

[…] in an ideal world, we would envision a future, where if you are facing end of life, you could have your brain preserved at this level of detail.

Until that time, the team’s findings open up the possibility of carrying out more in-depth scientific studies of the brain than were previously feasible, with the magazine Popular Science suggesting it could prove valuable to those conducting research into areas such as Alzheimer’s and Artificial Intelligence. Indeed, a combination of cryogenic and digital brain reconstruction techniques may well lead to a wealth of significant new discoveries.

Click to comment
To Top

Hi - Get Important Content Like This Delivered Directly To You

Get important content and more delivered to you once or twice a week.

We don't want an impostor using your email address so please look for an email from us and click the link to confirm your email address.