brain preserved in fluid
Sean Cate
Sean Cate
June 10, 2024 ·  3 min read

Device Can Keep Brain Alive for Hours Without Body

Scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center have achieved a groundbreaking feat: keeping a brain functioning independently from the body for several hours using a revolutionary device called the extracorporeal pulsatile circulatory control (EPCC).1 This innovative device could herald a new era in brain research, offering unparalleled insights into the human brain’s inner workings.2

A New Frontier in Brain Study

Traditionally, understanding the brain’s response to various conditions involves considering the body’s interconnected influences. However, this new technology bypasses these complexities. “This novel method enables research that focuses on the brain independent of the body, allowing us to answer physiological questions in a way that has never been done,” says Juan Pascual, a lead investigator in the study.3

The EPCC system sustains blood flow, temperature, and nutrients to the brain while mimicking natural blood pressure patterns. It was tested on pigs, with brain activity showing minimal changes over a five-hour period. This isolated environment permits scientists to explore brain reactions without interference from the body’s responses.

Implications for Medical Advancements

Beyond its scientific significance, this breakthrough has far-reaching implications. Researchers anticipate that this technology could refine cardiopulmonary bypass devices used in surgeries. The EPCC’s pulsatile blood flow, resembling the natural heart’s functioning, might mitigate complications associated with current bypass devices.

Moreover, this method allows the direct manipulation of inputs to the brain. For instance, researchers have already employed the system to study hypoglycemia’s effects on the brain without confounding influences. By altering the glucose content in blood pumped to the brain, they could delve deeper into understanding brain responses.

This pioneering breakthrough in isolating brain function from the body signifies a significant stride forward in neuroscience, potentially unlocking mysteries of the human brain that have long eluded scientific exploration.

A Feat of Scientific Precision

The EPCC’s success hinges on a meticulously designed algorithm responsible for maintaining near-native levels of blood pressure and circulation while keeping the brain isolated. The system was able to preserve cerebral activity and key physiological parameters, such as intracranial pressure and tissue oxygenation, over extended periods.

The ability to sustain brain function in this controlled environment offers scientists a pristine canvas to explore the brain’s responses without the confounding variables of bodily influences.

Revolutionizing Brain Research

One of the most promising aspects of this innovation is its potential to revolutionize neurological research. By disconnecting the brain from the body’s influences, scientists can delve into how the brain responds to various stimuli and conditions in ways previously unattainable.

The EPCC system has already been instrumental in studying the effects of hypoglycemia on the brain. By directly manipulating blood glucose content pumped to the brain, researchers gained unprecedented insights into the brain’s responses, unobscured by the body’s compensatory mechanisms.

Ethical Considerations and Future Directions

Despite its immense potential, the EPCC raises profound ethical considerations. The prospect of using this technology for brain transplants or extending the duration of brain functionality beyond research purposes raises complex moral dilemmas and challenges our understanding of life and consciousness.

As this technology evolves, researchers and ethicists must engage in thoughtful discourse to navigate the ethical boundaries and consider the far-reaching implications of such pioneering advancements.

The EPCC’s ability to sustain brain function in isolation represents a monumental leap forward in neuroscience and medical technology. Its applications may redefine our understanding of brain research and surgical interventions, but they also prompt crucial ethical reflections on the nature of life and consciousness.


  1. Scientists invent device to keep brain alive while severed from the body.” Independent. Anthony Cuthbertson. November 14, 2023.
  2. NEW DEVICE CAN KEEP BRAIN ALIVE FOR HOURS WITHOUT BODY.” Futurism. Sharon Adarlo. November 17.
  3. Maintenance of pig brain function under extracorporeal pulsatile circulatory control (EPCC).” Nature. Muhammed Shariff, et al. August 25, 2023.
  4. Device keeps brain alive, functioning separate from body.” UT Southwestern Medical Center. November 02, 2023.