According to the New Scientist, a team at the University of Maryland School of Medicine has not only placed a person in, what is in effect, suspended animation, but has brought the person back. The procedure, which will shortly be the subject of a scientific paper, involved removing the blood from a patient with trauma injuries, such as stab wounds, and replacing it with a chilled saline solution. The procedure stops the deterioration of brain cells that accompanies death. Then the patient is taken to an operating room, has his or her injuries repaired, and then the saline is replaced with blood, reviving him or her.
At least one patient as part of a group of ten has undergone this procedure. The UM School of Medicine has not revealed how the patient is doing or whether more have been subjected to the suspended animation procedure. A scientific paper describing the procedure and its results are expected by the end of next year.
People with incurable diseases have been undergoing forms of suspended animation for decades. The idea is that one’s biological processes would stop for years or even decades at a time. Then, when an effective treatment is found for a particular disease, the person can be revived, cured, and then reacclimated into the society of the future.
The Cryonics Institute defines the process thus:
“The process of cryopreservation involves cooling a legally-dead person to liquid nitrogen temperature where all physical decay essentially stops – to preserve tissues, organs and especially the brain with its associated memories and personality as perfectly as possible. A person held in this state is termed a ‘cryopreserved patient,’ because we do not consider the legal definition of ‘death’ as a permanently irreversible state. We believe that the incredible advances being made today in biology, medicine, computers, nanotechnology and much more inevitably point to a future where advanced science will be able to revive these patients and restore them to health and even renewed youth.
“Essentially, the concept is to ‘buy time’ until technology catches up and is able to fully repair and restore the human body. Cryonicists are people who believe this future is not only possible but highly probable and who have decided to take action in the present for the chance at a renewed life in the future. Cryonics Institute patients currently cryopreserved at CI include people from all walks of life and all ages – chefs, students, secretaries, professors, and many others.”
The trick is to revive the person successfully after being cryopreserved for many years or decades. Cells tend to get damaged after being chilled for too long, so not only does a cure for the disease that is ailing the patient has to be found but a reliable technique found to revive him or her to a fully functioning life.
The goals of the research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine are a little more modest than preserving a person into the far future. Medical professionals have noted that a person with a gun or knife wound or blunt force trauma could survive his or her injuries if they can be gotten to an operating room in time. However, all too often, the damage done by such injuries are so severe that the patient expires before trauma surgeons can get to him or her. Even a person being medevaced from the scene can die before arriving at a hospital, despite the best efforts of the EMTs to stabilize him or her.
The technique of stopping the dying process, by chilling the body down with the cold saline solution, should buy the patient time. The trick is to perform the surgery and then bring the patient back before cell damage takes place. No one knows how long the time is before a person cannot be brought back. One of the researchers suggests that a cocktail of drugs may do the trick.
NASA and other space agencies have been looking at suspended animation for astronauts on long space missions. The idea is that space travelers would be “put to sleep” for the years it would take to voyage to a destination like, say, Saturn, and then “woken up” at the end of the flight. The technique has been depicted in science fiction films such as “2001: A Space Odyssey.”