Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center Presbyterian Hospital are going to start trials to experiment with a human version of “suspended animation”. The sci-fi inspired technique is hoped to be able to treat and heal victims of trauma that would normally not be expected to survive due to the severity of their wounds. “We are suspending life, but we don’t like to call it suspended animation because it sounds like science fiction,” Samuel Tisherman, the surgeon who is leading the trial. “So we call it emergency preservation and resuscitation.”
Patients Will Be Clinically Dead
People who will be part of the study will be put in a state of suspended animation by cooling their bodies to 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit). This is done by removing the patient’s blood and replacing it with super cooled fluid through the patient’s Aorta. Once all the blood has been replaced then the patient will be clinically dead. Once the patient has been cooled, chemical reactions in their cells happen more slowly and they consume less oxygen. Researchers speculate that the extra time will allow trauma surgeons the time needed to repair injuries in the patient. Once the injuries are repaired, surgeons will use a heart-lung bypass machine to restore blood circulation and resuscitate the patient.
Animal Models Prove Promising on Trauma
This type of suspended animation has been attempted in animal models, including pigs. In experiments, scientists simulated gunshot wounds by inducing fatal wounds in the animals and simulating medical procedure. While all the pigs that weren’t cooled died from the wounds, 90% of pigs that were cooled at a medium rate survived. The surviving pigs had no long-term physical or cognitive problems.
Pennsylvania Residents Allowed to Opt-Out
The technique will be used on ten patients who would otherwise be expected to die from their wounds, which will likely come from stabbings or shootings. The doctors on the project will be paged when a patient is likely to fit the procedure. There is around one such case every month, and they have a survival rate of less than 7 per cent. Because the patients will be unable to give consent to the procedure, researchers will instead run a publicity campaign to allow potential patients to opt out. Locals will be able to order bracelets to indicate that they don’t consent.
The outcome of the ten initial patients will be compared with ten other patients that could not receive the procedure. Doctors then hope to refine the technique.