Suspended animation as a technique to preserving a healthy living body for long periods of time, especially during long-distance space travel, is a common cinematic staple of most sci-fi films.
And now it’s reality.
Harvard Medical School researchers are testing a groundbreaking emergency medical procedure for certain types of critically wounded patients that involves placing them in suspended animation. In the medical community, it is called ’emergency preservation and resuscitation’, which greatly lowers the body temperature of patients to a state during which they are neither dead nor alive, just ‘suspended’.
At normal human body temperature, cells must have a regular supply of oxygen to produce energy. When the heart stops bleeding oxygen is no longer transported to cells by blood, and without oxygen the brain can only survive for about 5 minutes before the damage is irreversible. On the other hand, when people with serious gunshot or stabbing wounds are rushed to the ER, medical staff often have only a few minutes to stop the bleeding before systemic damage is inevitable due to severe blood loss.
With this new procedure, blood is actually drained from the body and replaced by a chilled saline solution, which essentially stops the heart by drastically lowering the body temperature of the patient, thus preventing the cells that cause tissue death due to lack of oxygen from being released into the system. When the procedure is complete, the preserved blood is then pumped back into the body.
Here is a quick video demonstration of how the procedure works:
Harvard Medical School researcher Hasan Alam, who is a seminal proponent of this new medical breakthrough, states: “By cooling rapidly in this fashion, we can convert almost certain death into a 90% survival rate”.
If Alam is right, this could be one of the greatest medical breakthroughs in history.