Through the looking glass: Suspended animation is a term we hear in a lot of sci-fi movies, usually when a person is sent on a long-term space journey. Now, scientists have used the technique on humans in real life for the first time, as a way of fixing extreme injuries.
As reported by New Scientist, Samuel Tisherman, at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said his team had placed at least one person in suspended animation, though he wouldn’t say how many people survived the procedure.
Officially called “emergency preservation and resuscitation” (EPR), it’s being tested on patients with acute trauma, such as stab wounds and gunshots, and have had cardiac arrest. Their hearts will have stopped beating, and they will have lost more than half their blood, which usually gives them a survival rate of less than 5 percent.
EPR involves rapidly cooling a patient by replacing their blood with ice-cold saline. At normal body temperature, cells need a constant supply of oxygen to produce energy and keep us alive, but lowering the temperature of the body and brain slows or stops the cells’ chemical reactions, which need less oxygen as a result.
While the brain can only survive for five minutes without oxygen before irreparable damage occurs, the team working on an EPR patient has two hours to fix their injuries before they are warmed up and their heart restarted.
The results of the trial will be released next year. Hopefully, they will answer questions such as how long a person can remain in suspended animation safely. “I want to make clear that we’re not trying to send people off to Saturn,” said Tisherman. “We’re trying to buy ourselves more time to save lives.”
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