Last week, New Scientist reported that surgeons are now on call at the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to perform an emergency technique that suspends patients between life and death. Sort of turning you into a sleeping zombie to make you better.
It's massive news. Here's everything you need to know about it and a jaw-dropping GIF of Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried.
What is it?
The idea of suspended animation, also known as induced hypothermia, is to "suspend" patients between life and death, which buys time for doctors to fix injuries that would otherwise be lethal.
How do they do it?
The procedure involves replacing all of the patient's blood with a cold saline solution, which brings their body temperature down from 37 degrees C to 10.
At this point, they will have no blood in their body, they're no longer breathing and their brain activity has come to a complete stop. In clinical terms, the patient is dead. Which is absolutely terifying.
In this state, almost all cellular activity stops but cells can still survive without oxygen as no chemical reactions are taking place in the body. Because they've sucked your blood out like helpful vampires.
Surgeons then have a 2-hour window to fix injuries before the patient's body is gradually warmed up again as the blood replaces the solution and they
Haven't we already heard of induced hypothermia?
Yes, well done. The idea of induced hypothermia has already been around for ages. Before performing heart or brain surgery, surgeons sometimes use ice packs or circulate the patient's blood through a cooling system, to lower their body temperature.
This buys them around 45 minutes to stop blood flow and perform the surgery. However, this takes time and preparation, so is not possible for more immediate, emergency cases like gunshot or stab victims.
Does it actually work?
Well they wouldn't just give it a go and see what happened! The first demonstrated this technique on pigs, way back in 2002. Their hearts usually started beating again by themselves, although some needed a jumpstart. And there were no nasty after-effects.
Why does it sound like something from a film?
They're not actually calling is suspended animation. "We don't like to call it [that] 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." Which still makes it sound like something in a film.
And now they're about to start doing it on humans?
Yup. The doctor's are already prepared for it. All they have to do now is wait for the right patient to arrive. When they do, and if they don't respond to regular attempts at restarting their hearts, every member of Tisherman's team will be paged.
The question that's now being raised is, "How long could humans potentially be in this state for?" Will human hibernation ever happen?
But, let's just take it one step at a time, eh guys?
And now for one of the greatest GIFs in the history of the internet...
Life-changing on so many different levels.
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