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Doctors Claim to Have Achieved Placing Humans In Suspended Animation

Suspended animation: the temporary cessation of most vital functions without death, as in a dormant seed or a hibernating animal. The first time I can recall learning about human suspended animation was reading the Madeleine L'Engle young adult book, A Wrinkle in Time.

Now, doctors at University of Maryland School of Medicine claim to have placed humans in suspended animation, for the first time, as part of a trial in the US that aims to make it possible to fix traumatic injuries that would otherwise cause death.

Samuel Tisherman told New Scientist that his team of medics had placed at least one patient in suspended animation, calling it “a little surreal” when they first did it. He wouldn’t reveal how many people had survived as a result.

The technique, officially called emergency preservation and resuscitation (EPR) involves rapidly cooling a person to around 10 to 15°C by replacing all of their blood with ice-cold saline. The patient’s brain activity almost completely stops. They are then disconnected from the cooling system and their body – which would otherwise be classified as dead – is moved to the operating theatre.

A surgical team then has 2 hours to fix the person’s injuries before they are warmed up and their heart restarted. Tisherman says he hopes to be able to announce the full results of the trial by the end of 2020.

Read the full article at New Scientist.

Image Credit: John Crawford (Photographer) via Wikimedia Commons


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This has literally been done for decades...the first version was done on September 2, 1952 when two University of Minnesota surgeons, Dr. Walton Lillehei and Dr. John Lewis, attempted the first open heart surgery on a five-year-old girl who had been born with a hole in her heart. She was Anaesthetized to stop her shivering as she was cooled by a special blanket until her body temperature reached 81 degrees F. At this temperature, she could survive without a pumping heart for 10 minutes, not four. Clamping the inflow to her heart so that it emptied of blood, Lillehei and Lewis cut open her heart, which was still slowly beating, and quickly sewed up the hole. With the repaired heart working properly for the first time in her life, the girl was then immersed in a bath of warm water to bring her body temperature back to normal. The operation was a success.
It should also be noted that doctors have found that resuscitation is possible for cold-water drowning victims, particularly successfully for children, if accomplished within a two-hour window of the drowning, which has led to even further advancements in the technique of operating on a patient placed in hypothermia.
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