Restoration of brain circulation and cellular functions hours post-mortem

Nature. 2019 Apr;568(7752):336-343. doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1099-1. Epub 2019 Apr 17.


The brains of humans and other mammals are highly vulnerable to interruptions in blood flow and decreases in oxygen levels. Here we describe the restoration and maintenance of microcirculation and molecular and cellular functions of the intact pig brain under ex vivo normothermic conditions up to four hours post-mortem. We have developed an extracorporeal pulsatile-perfusion system and a haemoglobin-based, acellular, non-coagulative, echogenic, and cytoprotective perfusate that promotes recovery from anoxia, reduces reperfusion injury, prevents oedema, and metabolically supports the energy requirements of the brain. With this system, we observed preservation of cytoarchitecture; attenuation of cell death; and restoration of vascular dilatory and glial inflammatory responses, spontaneous synaptic activity, and active cerebral metabolism in the absence of global electrocorticographic activity. These findings demonstrate that under appropriate conditions the isolated, intact large mammalian brain possesses an underappreciated capacity for restoration of microcirculation and molecular and cellular activity after a prolonged post-mortem interval.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autopsy*
  • Brain / blood supply*
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Ischemia / metabolism
  • Brain Ischemia / pathology
  • Caspase 3 / metabolism
  • Cell Survival
  • Cerebral Arteries / physiology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Hypoxia, Brain / metabolism
  • Hypoxia, Brain / pathology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Microcirculation*
  • Neuroglia / cytology
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Perfusion
  • Reperfusion Injury / prevention & control
  • Swine* / blood
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Synapses / pathology
  • Time Factors
  • Vasodilation


  • Caspase 3