Surgeons are preparing to place patients between life and death in the first-ever human trial of a new suspended animation technique. Victims of stabbings or gunshot wounds will have their bodies rapidly cooled at Pittsburgh's UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, buying doctors an extra 2 hours to save them.
The process requires surgeons to rapidly drain all of a patient's blood, replacing it with a cold saline solution. Although a patient is clinically dead at this point, the saline lowers the body temperature enough to allow cells to survive for hours, making it possible for doctors to bring the person "back to life" after surgery.
"We are suspending life, but we don't like to call it suspended animation because it sounds like science fiction," Samuel Tisherman, the surgeon in charge of the trial, told New Scientist. "So we call it emergency preservation and resuscitation."
The method was successfully tested on pigs in 2002, and doctors were able to restore the animals with no loss of cognitive function—although some of the pigs' hearts had to be jumpstarted.
The human trial will begin as soon as the hospital gets the right patients, and will proceed in alternating groups of 10—10 patients suspends, 10 treated normally—until there's enough data to decide whether the treatment is effective.