Death may be reversible, scientists who resurrected a corpse’s eyes say.
Technicians were able to ‘bring back to life’ peepers harvested from organ donors.
They fired up neurons in the retina five hours after a donor died and witnessed them sending signals “resembling those recorded from living subjects”.
Writing in the journal Nature, study chiefs said their work “raises the question of whether brain death is truly irreversible”.
Research lead author Dr Fatima Abbas, from the Moran Eye Centre at the University of Utah, said: “We were able to wake up photoreceptor cells in the human macula, which is the part of the retina responsible for our central vision and our ability to see fine detail and colour.
“In eyes obtained up to five hours after an organ donor’s death, these cells responded to bright light, coloured lights and even very dim flashes of light.”
Dr Frans Vinberg, also from the University of Utah, added: “We were able to make the retinal cells talk to each other, the way they do in the living eye.
“This has never been achieved in the macula, and never to the extent we have now demonstrated.”
The research is a step up from a 2019 Yale University study, which used a cocktail of chemicals to kickstart the brains of 32 decapitated pigs slaughtered four hours earlier.
It failed to revive activity in neurons – a key part of the central nervous system that includes the brain and spinal cord.
The new development will bring joy to billionaires including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, 58, who have been pouring millions of dollars into immortality research.
Simon Cowell, 62, has also been obsessed with living forever.
But he pulled out of his plan to have his body cryogenically frozen after he learned it involved having his head removed from his body.
To achieve their results, the Utah-based scientists designed a special transportation unit that could restore oxygen and other nutrients to eyes 20 minutes after they were removed from a deceased donor.
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The researchers also hope their breakthrough could speed up therapies for sight loss and improve understanding of brain diseases.
They predict it could tackle brain death – a condition where a person’s brain ceases to function as a result of oxygen or blood supply being cut off.
Under UK law, the victim is dead as they will never regain consciousness despite their heart and lungs continuing to work with a ventilator.