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Author Topic: Suspended Animation  (Read 1838 times)

Offline sevenzig

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Suspended Animation
« on: July 13, 2006, 06:34:25 PM »

Mike Duggan, a veterinary surgeon, holds his gloved hands over an 8-inch incision in the belly of pig 78-6, a 120-pound, pink Yorkshire. He’s waiting for a green light from Hasan Alam, a trauma surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital.

 “Make the injury,” Alam says. Duggan nods and slips his hands into the gash, fingers probing through inches of fat and the rosy membranes holding the organs in place. He pushes aside the intestines, ovaries, and bladder, and with a quick scalpel stroke slices open the iliac artery. It’s 10:30 am. Pig 78-6 loses a quarter of her blood within moments. Heart rate and blood pressure plummet. Don’t worry – Alam and Duggan are going to save her.

 Alam goes to work on the chest, removing part of a rib to reveal the heart, a throbbing, shiny pink ball the size of a fist. He cuts open the aorta – an even more lethal injury – and blood sprays all over our scrubs. The EKG flatlines. The surgeons drain the remaining blood and connect tubes to the aorta and other vessels, filling the circulatory system with chilled organ-preservation fluid – a nearly frozen daiquiri of salts, sugars, and free-radical scavengers.

 Her temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit; brain activity has ceased. Alam checks the wall clock and asks  a nurse to mark the time: 11:25 am.

 But 78-6 is, in fact, only mostly dead  – the common term for her state is, believe it or not, suspended animation. Long the domain of transhumanist nut-jobs, cryogenic suspension may be just two years away from clinical trials on humans (presuming someone can solve the sticky ethical problems). Trauma surgeons can’t wait – saving people with serious wounds, like gunshots, is always a race against the effects of blood loss. When blood flow drops, toxins accumulate; just five minutes of low oxygen levels causes brain death.

 Chill a body, though, and you change the equation. Metabolism slows, oxygen demand dives, and the time available to treat the injury stretches. “With the pig essentially dead,” Alam says, “we’ve got hours to fix it and play around.” By noon the team has stitched up the arteries and gone to lunch. It has become *routine: Alam has suspended 200 pigs for an hour each, and although experimental protocol calls for different levels of care for each pig, the ones that got optimal treatment all survived. Today he’ll keep 78-6 down for two hours.

 That afternoon, the team scrubs back in and starts pumping warm blood into 78-6, watching the heart twitch and writhe like a bag of worms as it struggles to find a rhythm. A healthy heart should feel like a rare steak, Alam explains; medium or well-done *suggests muscle damage. He pokes it. “Medium,” he says, removing clamps to let it pump more blood. If he closes the chest too soon and the heart tires, he won’t be able to save the animal.

 A few minutes later, Alam touches the heart again. “Medium-rare,”  he says. “Looks pretty good.” But  he admits he’s ballparking. “It’s the gestalt,” he says. “It’s not in any book.”

 Over the next hour, the surgeons stitch up 78-6. Everyone leaves except Alam, who perches on a stool at her side. When he removes her breathing tube, she breathes irregularly a few times and he leans in with a hand venti*lator, squeezing rhythmically and stroking her head. She quivers; her ear twitches.

 By 6 pm she’s awake, draped in a blanket. Attendants roll her gurney into a recovery room with classical music playing on a radio and a healthy pig in an adjacent stall to keep her company. Pigs like that. Tests on other subjects – and postmortem examinations of brains – have revealed no cognitive damage from the *procedure, but Alam will nevertheless stick around until 78-6 gets back on her feet, around midnight. “She didn’t look so great before,” he says, patting the pig’s side. “But she’s going to make it.”


I found the article quite interesting. Could this be the next major medical breakthrough? Saving gang-bangers from gunshot wounds!

Yeah, I'm a cynic.

Offline Kurier

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Re: Suspended Animation
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2006, 09:05:22 PM »
This seems like a step in the right direction. As long as medical advancement stops short of eternal life, I believe that it can do no wrong. I can't wait until this technique is okay'ed for human use.
I fell off the wagon and now I can't stop.
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