Cryogenically Frozen Rabbit Brain Hailed As Scientific First

For the first time, scientists say the detailed structure of a fully intact mammalian brain has been cryogenically preserved — but could it pave the way toward the preservation of human brains and memory? It might be too soon to say.

The scientific achievement was announced Tuesday by the Brain Preservation Foundation after a group of researchers successfully froze a rabbit brain as part of a contest and published research about their cryopreservation technique in the December edition of the journal Cryobiology.

While the preserved brain was dead tissue, all of its synaptic connections — or the junctions of nerve cells — were maintained, Robert McIntyre, a scientist at company 21st Century Medicine who led the research, told The Huffington Post.

“This research is a first because it works on whole brains and preserves
all of the synaptic details,” he said. “Previous techniques, such as resin embedding, are only able to preserve detailed synaptic information in small brain slices.”

Indeed, since the 1960s, scientists have been preserving small samples of brain tissue at this level of detail, but they haven’t been able to preserve an entire brain until now, according to the BPF.

“The brain was able to be sliced and viewed in an electron microscope which suggested that all the connections had been preserved,” Dr. Michael Cerullo, a psychiatrist at the Virginia-based foundation, told Newsweek.

To preserve the rabbit brain, the researchers used a new chemical technique called Aldehyde-stabilized cryopreservation, or ASC, that involved the combination of processes called chemical fixation and cryogenic cooling.

First, the oily liquid glutaraldehyde was used to bind the proteins in the brain together, McIntyre said, and then ethylene glycol — a powerful antifreeze used in the automotive industry — was used to protect the brain from the extreme cold.

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