A recent study by scientists at Yale concluded that it was possible to bring a dead pig back to life by injecting them with a solution soon to be patented. Their goal is to create a source of organs for transplants. The heart valves of pigs, for example, are often used in heart surgery for humans.

If the solution works on pigs, it would probably work on humans. However, the scientists took care not to reactivate the pigs’ brains.

The ethics issues are complex and profound, far above my pay grade. But we all need to think about what could happen next, or after that, or after that.

Science writer Gina Kolata wrote in the New York Times:

The pigs had been lying dead in the lab for an hour — no blood was circulating in their bodies, their hearts were still, their brain waves flat. Then a group of Yale scientists pumped a custom-made solution into the dead pigs’ bodies with a device similar to a heart-lung machine.

What happened next adds questions to what science considers the wall between life and death. Although the pigs were not considered conscious in any way, their seemingly dead cells revived. Their hearts began to beat as the solution, which the scientists called OrganEx, circulated in veins and arteries. Cells in their organs, including the heart, liver, kidneys and brain, were functioning again, and the animals never got stiff like a typical dead pig.

Other pigs, dead for an hour, were treated with ECMO, a machine that pumped blood through their bodies. They became stiff, their organs swelled and became damaged, their blood vessels collapsed, and they had purple spots on their backs where blood pooled.

The group reported its results Wednesday in Nature.

The researchers say their goals are to one day increase the supply of human organs for transplant by allowing doctors to obtain viable organs long after death. And, they say, they hope their technology might also be used to prevent severe damage to hearts after a devastating heart attack or brains after a major stroke….

The work began a few years ago when the group did a similar experiment with brains from dead pigs from a slaughterhouse. Four hours after the pigs died, the group infused a solution similar to OrganEx that they called BrainEx and saw that brain cells that should be dead could be revived.

That led them to ask if they could revive an entire body, said Dr. Zvonimir Vrselja, another member of the Yale team.

The OrganEx solution contained nutrients, anti-inflammatory medications, drugs to prevent cell death, nerve blockers — substances that dampen the activity of neurons and prevented any possibility of the pigs regaining consciousness — and an artificial hemoglobin mixed with each animal’s own blood.

When they treated the dead pigs, the investigators took precautions to make sure the animals did not suffer. The pigs were anesthetized before they were killed by stopping their hearts, and the deep anesthesia continued throughout the experiment. In addition, the nerve blockers in the OrganEx solution stop nerves from firing in order to ensure the brain was not active. The researchers also chilled the animals to slow chemical reactions. Individual brain cells were alive, but there was no indication of any organized global nerve activity in the brain.

There was one startling finding: The pigs treated with OrganEx jerked their heads when the researchers injected an iodine contrast solution for imaging. Dr. Latham emphasized that while the reason for the movement was not known, there was no indication of any involvement of the brain.

The older I get, the more I am inclined towards vegetarianism. Pigs are intelligent creatures. Do they exist only to serve our needs? Can we do as we wish with other creatures?