Rabbit brain preserved intact and can be stored for centuries.
The Brain Preservation Foundation (BPF) has announced a winner in its five-year challenge to preserve the brain of a mouse or equal-sized mammal for extreme long storage, and has awarded $26,735 to 21st Century Medicine for completion of the project.
According to an article in Popular Science, all the neurons and synapses within the brain would have to remain intact throughout the process and would have to be visible by a special electron microscope to qualify.
Robert McIntyre, a recent graduate of MIT, leader of the research team, and his colleagues discovered a way to preserve the circuitry in the brain by using a strong chemical to suspend the neurons and synapses, and freezing them with extremely cold temperatures. The technique, called Aldehyde-stabilized Cryopreservation, was published in the journal Cryobiology last year, and reviewed by BRF’s president Kenneth Hayworth, a neuroscientist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In a press release, Hayworth said every neuron and synapse looked “beautifully preserved” in the brain of the rabbit, which was the animal chosen for the project.
The key to the success of the project was using a toxic chemical, glutaraldehyde, which spread rapidly through the brain of the rabbit, stopping decay and essentially fixing the protein in place. Once the tissue stabilized, the brain was stored at -135 degrees Celsius and can remain so for centuries.
Recently, scientists have moved to the development of technology that can preserve the brain’s neurons and synapses, instead of trying to find ways to preserve the entire body, which doesn’t seem achievable at this point in time. The theory is if we can preserve the brain’s “connectdome,” perhaps the brain’s memories will be preserved as well, and one day, science may find a way to upload all those intact memories and information.
Of course, the next step will be to try the experiment on larger mammals, and the team has already preserved the brain of a pig, but the foundation has yet to examine the latest step.
Whether it is possible to retain all those memories and all that information in the human brain is yet to be determined, but Mcintyre is optimistic about the research. He remarked, “…we would envision a future, where if you are facing end of life, you could have your brain preserved at this level of detail.”