Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas have made a groundbreaking advancement in medical science by developing a method that can keep a brain alive and functional for several hours without its body. This experimental procedure involved the use of a device called the extracorporeal pulsatile circulatory control (EPCC). This machine maintains blood flow through the brain, simulating the natural circulation when it is connected to the rest of the body.
The study, led by medical professor Juan Pascual, involved a detailed process where two pigs were put under anesthesia, and their brains were connected to the EPCC. The researchers severed important arteries linking the brains to the rest of the bodies and then attached them to the EPCC. This complex system of tubes and a pump, controlled by software, replicated the natural blood flow in the brain. Remarkably, despite the severed bodily connections, the brains remained functional for up to five hours.
This novel method opens up new avenues for brain research, allowing for the exploration of physiological questions in ways previously unattainable. For instance, the experiment enabled the research team to investigate the impact of sugar on the brain, isolated from other bodily mechanisms that might influence the process. The implications of this research extend beyond mere academic curiosity. The team envisions potential future applications of this technique in medical procedures, particularly in improving cardiopulmonary bypass devices. Current devices circulate blood in a continuous flow, but a system that mimics the pulsatile nature of the human heart could reduce complications associated with existing bypass technologies.
The development of the EPCC and its successful demonstration in keeping brains alive outside the body represents a significant milestone in medical research. It not only provides a unique tool for studying the brain in isolation but also holds promise for enhancing medical procedures, particularly in critical care and surgery