Posted on Nov 26, 2019, 12 p.m.
Scientists have placed a human into suspended animation in a development which could offer a glimpse of a pathway to singularity, while it may sound like science fiction, it could save lives.
In a procedure Samuel Tisherman describes as being “ a little surreal” the team from the Maryland School of Medicine say they have successfully placed a human into suspended animation; Tisherman plans to reveal the details of the groundbreaking technology in a paper during 2020.
Tisherman reports that he replaced the human blood with an ice cold saline solution. The patient was taken from a cooling system and then underwent a 2 hour surgical procedure before the blood was replaced and the body was then warmer back up to operating temperature.
Tisherman suggests that this development could transform emergency surgery; by putting patients into a state of suspended animation it could be like pressing the pause button on life long enough to perform complex and life saving surgery.
Speaking of a young man who died of stab wounds to illustrate his point: “He was a healthy young man just minutes before and then he was dead,” explains Tisherman. “We could have saved him if we’d had enough time. I want to make it clear, we’re not sending people off to Saturn. We’re trying to buy ourselves enough time to save lives.”
This technique is official being called Emergency Preservation and Resuscitation, and it is being carried out at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore on patients with an acute trauma; their heart will stop beating and they will have lost more than half of their blood. For these patients there are only a few minutes in which to operate, with less than 5% chance that they normally would have survived. The procedure rapidly cools the patient to 10-15 degrees Celsius by replacing all their blood with ice cold saline, brain activity almost completely stops, then they are disconnected from the cooling system to the operating table.
The US FDA gave clearance for the trail, making it exempt from needing patient consent as those with these injuries are very likely to be fatal and there is no alternative treatment. It is not clear how long a person can remain in this state, when warmed up there is also a risk of experiencing reperfusion injuries in which a series of chemical reactions damage cells, and the longer they are without oxygen, the more damage can occur. It may be possible to help minimise these injuries with drugs, however, Tisherman says “but we haven’t identified all the causes of reperfusion injuries yet”.
Ariane Lewis, director of the division of neuro-critical care at NYU Langone Health, said she thought it was important work, but that it was just the first steps. “We have to see whether it works and then we can start to think about how and where we can use it.”
Each and every year thousands of people die before they are able to reach the operating table, explains Tisherman, who hopes this pioneering approach could give patients a fighting chance with the few extra life saving moments that they need to survive.
Sometimes science makes a discovery that comes out of science fiction movies, but they are real, and this is a good example of one of them. While still in the early stages of development technologies such as this have very real implications for surgery while offering a glimpse of what future technologies that may hold people in stasis might be like, especially for those who may be preparing in anticipation for the possibility of an online life in the Matrix-like singularity type of event.
Materials provided by:
Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.