Boffins freeze brains, then thaw them – and they're in perfect order

Rabbit and pig brains look fine, but haven't been transplanted. Sorry, Walt

Scientists have preserved and recovered cryogenically-frozen brains in near-perfect condition.

Robert McIntyre and Gregory Fahy from 21st Century medicine were able to prevent neuron shrinkage that follows dehydration.

The pair used ultrafast chemical fixation and a new cryogenic storage technique called aldehyde-stabilised cryopreservation (ASC) to preserve and thaw rabbit and pig brains.

The Brain Preservation Foundation announced the team had won the Small Mammal Brain Preservation Prize for the work first published last August in the paper Aldehyde-stabilized cryopreservation [PDF].

"To demonstrate the feasibility of ASC, we perfuse-fixed rabbit and pig brains with a glutaraldehyde-based fixative, then slowly perfused increasing concentrations of ethylene glycol over several hours in a manner similar to techniques used for whole organ cryopreservation," the pair say in the paper.

First, FIX your rabbit.

First, FIX your rabbit. Image: McIntyre and Fahy.

The paper continues by saying "... we vitrified brains at -135C for indefinite long-term storage [before they] were rewarmed and the cryoprotectant removed either by perfusion or gradual diffusion from brain slices.

"Preservation was uniformly excellent: processes were easily traceable and synapses were crisp in both species."

The eighty rabbit and pig brains that underwent the full experiment showed no signs of shrinkage. Neither did they explode or 'popcorn' the brain cells' mitochondria.

Brain Preservation Foundation president Dr. Kenneth Hayworth said the neurons and synapses were "beautifully preserved".

"Simply amazing given that I held in my hand this very same brain when it was vitrified glassy solid," Dr Hayworth said.

"This is not your father’s cryonics." ®

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