Journeys to other star systems will forever be out of reach unless a massive breakthrough in physics makes faster-than-light travel a reality, or a breakthrough in medicine makes suspended animation possible. Now, at least, one of those things has happened.
Samuel Tisherman, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, is the leader of a team that has successfully put a human being in suspended animation.
Describing the successful operation as “a little surreal,” Professor Tisherman told New Scientist how he removed the patient’s blood and replaced with ice-cold saline solution.
The patient, technically dead at this point, was removed from the cooling system and taken to an operating theatre for a two-hour surgical procedure before having their blood restored and being warmed to the normal temperature of 37C.
Prof Tisherman says he will be producing a full account of the procedure in a scientific paper in the new year.
He says that his focus is on pausing life long enough to perform emergency surgery rather than sending astronauts on interstellar journeys.
He tells the story of a young man who was stabbed over a row in a bowling alley: “He was a healthy young man just minutes before, then suddenly he was dead. We could have saved him if we’d had enough time.”
His suspended animation technique is intended as a way of securing that extra time.
“I want to make clear that we’re not trying to send people off to Saturn,” he says. “We’re trying to buy ourselves more time to save lives.”
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SOURCE: Daily Star, Michael Moran