I recently came across an article titled “Biotech Company Granted Ethical Permission To Attempt To Use Stem Cells To Reactivate The Brains Of The Dead.” The article got a lot of play on social media. I’m not surprised; it seems to describe the exact scenario that would precede future documentary The Walking Dead.
But that title is serious clickbait. A more accurate wording of the last part would be “…To Revive the Brain-dead.” That’s the experiment—trying to bring consciousness back to brain-dead patients currently on life support.
The article even uses a picture a cadaver on an examining table. Double clickbait! But who can blame them? It worked. I nearly sprained my finger trying to open the article.
The real, less science-fictiony experiment is still fascinating. The company is Bioquark, and the project is “ReAnima.” These names KILL me. Just at “-tor” to the end of the project name, and you get the 1980s horror movie I still can’t bring myself to watch a second time.
The brain-dead subjects will receive stem cells, nerve stimulation, and injections of chemical neurotransmitters. To test effectiveness, a healthy human will pass an arm above the subject’s nose to activate a bite response.
Just kidding about that last part. *laughs nervously, shops Amazon for chemical smell blockers*
So is it ethical? Recommended? What constitutes “dead”? I have no idea how to answer the last question, but it raises some interesting follow-ups.
Popular Science mused that it might not be wise to bring someone back from brain death. If a subject’s access to memories and personality is gone, you might create a new person entirely. This would be closer to the concept of “birth” than healing or revival.
Even if the ReAnima project is successful, biotech may soon leapfrog the need for it. Mind-machine links improve daily. Science fiction often envisions full upload/download processes, beaming your whole mind into new housing.
But if wireless data storage never becomes hack-proof (and it won’t), we may want a local backup. Implants free of remote access. Stand-alone tech in the cerebrum could store brain function and survive serious brain trauma.
Reanimation would be as simple as linking new tissue to the existing implants. The subject will only crave human flesh once programmed to do so.
See? That’s not nightmare-inducing at all. Onward and upward!
I believe ReAnima’s goals are noble. I hope the project succeeds in doing exactly what it intends—bringing back those lost to mortal brain trauma.
Would I want my brain returned from death if it meant becoming a new person? Only with the stipulation that the new Walker act like a zombie for a few days. He must shuffle and moan around my neighborhood, clawing at windows. Leave ‘em screaming, I say. Then he is free to live his new life.
But that poor newborn would face a rough start. Brought into the world with a bum shoulder, bum ankle, bum attention span…
Addiction to coffee, limited vertical jump, allergy to all plant life…
Indebted to the Yakuza, wanted in Sweden for art theft…
Just for starters.
What about you? Would you want the neurotransmitter cocktail? Or is it better to let lying things lie?