Four things are true: One, a startup called Nectome plans to embalm the living brains of dying people, with the promise that the preserved tissues might someday be brought back to life. Two, the grim plan has gotten a ton of press coverage in the past few days, ever since MIT Technology Review covered it on Tuesday (March 13). Three, most of that press coverage doesn’t cite any outside neuroscience experts. And four, all of the experts that Live Science contacted to discuss the story have expressed, one way or another, that they found the plan ridiculous.
Nectome plans to insert itself into the process of physician-assisted suicide. The company wants to flood the arteries of living people who have terminal illnesses with embalming fluid to preserve their brain tissue. The idea is that the dead organ would then be converted into a map of all the connections among neurons — constituting a complete, physical “connectome,” from which a person’s consciousness might one day be resurrected. The evidence that they can pull it off? They’ve managed to successfully preserve a pig’s brain “so well that every synapse inside it could be seen with an electron microscope.”
The company also says, somewhat ghoulishly, that the process is “100 percent fatal.”