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Home > Topics > Technology

Surgeons to test suspended animation on humans for first time

In a groundbreaking technique, 10 dying patients will undergo induced hypothermia to give Pa. doctors time to fix their injuries


PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Neither dead or alive, knife-wound or gunshot victims will be cooled down and placed in suspended animation later this month, as a groundbreaking emergency technique is tested out for the first time. Surgeons are now on call at the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to perform the operation, which will buy doctors time to fix injuries that would otherwise be lethal.

"We are suspending life, but we don't like to call it suspended animation because it sounds like science fiction," says Samuel Tisherman, a surgeon at the hospital, who is leading the trial. "So we call it emergency preservation and resuscitation."

The technique involves replacing all of a patient's blood with a cold saline solution, which rapidly cools the body and stops almost all cellular activity. "If a patient comes to us two hours after dying you can't bring them back to life. But if they're dying and you suspend them, you have a chance to bring them back after their structural problems have been fixed," says surgeon Peter Rhee at the University of Arizona in Tucson, who helped develop the technique.

Read full storyGunshot victims to be suspended between life and death

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Daniel O' Connell Daniel O' Connell Friday, March 28, 2014 1:08:35 PM Replace all their blood ? How's that going to work when you bring them back ? How do we know that absolutely all cellular activity is stopped ? What if there is still some and it requires blood ?
Braxton Clarke Braxton Clarke Friday, March 28, 2014 1:41:08 PM What about the brain? It can only go without blood for 4-6 minutes before damage starts to occur. Or is the a more extreme way of induced hypothermia, like post cardiac arrest patients
Steve Montanino Steve Montanino Friday, March 28, 2014 6:04:26 PM It sounds to me like these people are going to be dead without intervention anyway, so there isn't much risk, only potential benefit. I doubt they would use this on a person who wasn't terminal.
Jim Walsh Jim Walsh Friday, March 28, 2014 8:23:20 PM Damage will not occur if the cells are inactive. This will halt ALL cellular activity, including death and damage of cells. The concept has been around for a long time, call it cryogenics, cryosleep, suspended animation or whatever else. I am REALLY looking forward to the potential outcomes of this trial, the possibilities of this technology are IMMENSE. If we've got this right.... DAAAMN the future will be brighter by leaps. Iffff not those people were going to die anyway, and they died believing in something new that could change the face of emergency medicine as we know it. The main issues ive heard from cryogenics are: If you freeze up the body too fast, the cells will rupture. If you thaw out too fast, you risk damage as well. They have to time this out near perfectly for it to work. Good luck to you ten. I'll see you on the other side if this goes wrong. God speed,
Richard Berger Richard Berger Friday, March 28, 2014 8:31:09 PM A good portion of current medical science, 200 years ago, would have been called "Science Fiction", using the literary equivalent terminology.
Lucia Haskell Lucia Haskell Friday, March 28, 2014 8:43:04 PM I believe they've done this with animals before. I think it was a dog that was successfully brought back. I may have my story wrong, but interesting to say the least.
Bill Lorson Bill Lorson Saturday, March 29, 2014 3:14:32 PM I believe thinking of it more of an extreme form of induced hypothermia is the best way to think about it. The majority of the injury from loss of blood flow occurs on repferfusion, not the initial insult. The main antioxidant we have in our body is glutathione (GSH). When the body is reperfused the anoxic cells release a large amount of free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) because they were going threw anaerobic glycolysis to produce their energy, when they could not receive fresh oxygen, which causes a greater amount of ROS to be produced. When these ROSs are released the GSH takes them on and forms reduced glutathione (GSSH). In reperfusion injuries the GSH is overwhelmed and the ROS go and destroy the healthy cells in the area as well. Cooling the body by the vascular system is a quick way to cool the entire body down in hopes of decreasing the amount of ROS produced, because a cool cells decreases it metabolic rate which = less energy production by-products, and hopefully less injury to the individuals organs.
Michael Krtek Michael Krtek Saturday, March 29, 2014 9:35:38 PM Um...did you read the article?

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