Researchers have put humans into a state of suspended animation for the first time, to buy more time for seriously injured patients’ surgeons.
Samuel Tisherman and his team at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, in a groundbreaking trial, replaced the patient’s blood with ice-cold saline solution, in a process that involves rapidly cooling the brain to less than 10C.
They placed a patient in suspended animation, calling it “a little surreal,” in a process known as emergency preservation and resuscitation (EPR), involving cooling the body to about 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 Celsius).
With EPR, the patient is cooled by replacing their blood with ice-cold saline, then the heart stops beating and the brain activity almost completely stops.
At normal body temperature of 98.6 Fahrenheit (37 Celsius), our cells need regular supply of oxygen to continue functioning. Only five minutes of oxygen deprivation is enough to cause irreparable brain damage.
But this cooling process, slows or stops metabolic activity in the cells, preserves tissues, and stops the heart.
Samuel Tisherman explained at New Scientist that: “Only patients that arrive at the hospital with acute trauma comprising the loss of half their blood volume and cardiac arrest can undergo the procedure.”
Image credit Alien