The end is (probably) here. In bizarre research of sorts, medical experts at the University of Maryland Medical Centre, Baltimore got together to undertake a rather hair raising experiment: place a human being into a state which is best described as “Suspended animation.”

While details of the patient have not been disclosed, it is learned that the patient arrived with a stopped heart and had lost at least half their blood. It is suspected that the patient was a victim of gunshot or had endured a stab wound.

It is to be noted that there isn’t much that can be done in terms of damage control on the surgeons’ part as most trauma cases. For instance, at a normal human body temperature of 37c (99f), an individual at the most can survive for about five minutes without a heartbeat to pump oxygen to our cells. Beyond that, the survival rates are a meager five percent.

But, in this scenario, the patient’s body was chilled to around 10–15c (50–59f) by replacing their blood with an ice-cold saline solution. This reportedly brought their brain activity as well as chemical reactions taking place in their body’s cells to a halt.

While details like whether the patient survived once they had been warmed up, had their blood restored and their heart restarted has not been disclosed, Professor Samuel Tisherman and his team intend to carry out the procedure on several other patients in a trial, with the results likely to out in late 2020.

Labeling the experience of finding someone in the midst of life and death to be “ a little surreal” Professor Tisherman. While suspended animation might become a lot common in the future, the idea is still very nascent and hair-raising at present. Aside from giving surgeons such as Professor Tisherman more time to operate, it must be noted that such extremely low temperatures could one day help combat cancer, with research hinting at how patients in this state might be able to tolerate far higher doses of radiation without causing any harm to the healthy tissues. Testifying the same is Italian physicist Professor Marco Durante, one of the world’s leading radiotherapy experts, who hailed this state of ‘synthetic torpor’ as the ‘future’ of cancer treatment that could help the terminally ill. “You wake up the patients and they are cured. That is our ambition,”’ he said.

Indeed, there is no denying that inducing hypothermia can be dangerous, fraught with the risk of potentially damaging vital cells and disrupting natural healing.

What’s more, according to a popular report, studies of dwarf lemurs, which live only in Madagascar and are man’s closest genetic relatives known to hibernate, show that during periods of dormancy, which last up to around eight months, their normal heart rate of 180 beats a minute can drop to as low as four. Body temperature, which usually hovers at about 36c (97f), can plunge to an almost-freezing 5c.

Biologists are also studying larger animals able to achieve a state of suspended animation. Yet what needs to be noted is that if humans spent half the year in a physically inactive state without performing bodily functions like eating, defecating or urinating, they would suffer from a host of conditions such as heart failure, thrombosis, organ injuries, blood poisoning and the like.

Indeed, there are miles to go before the concept of putting a human into suspended animation transpires into a reality. Yet again, there’s always a possibility.

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