Suspended animation is no longer a pipe dream

A research scientist in a Seattle cancer laboratory has discovered the secret to reanimating organisms that had been frozen to a temperature below survivable limits.

Dr. Mark Roth was inspired by cases of individuals who survived prolonged exposure to the bitter cold with few adverse affects — like Canadian toddler Erica Nordby, who wandered from her house in the winter of and whose heart stopped beating for two hours before she was rescued, warmed, and came miraculously back to life; and Mitsutaka Uchikoshi, who fell asleep on a snowy mountainside in 2006 and was found 23 days later with a core body temperature of just 71°F. He too was successfully reanimated having suffered no appreciable ill effects.

Experimenting on yeasts and worms, Roth and his team found that if his specimens were deprived of oxygen before freezing, they'd enter a state of suspended animation from which they can be reliably revived.

"We wondered if what was happening with the organisms in my laboratory was also happening in people like the toddler and the Japanese mountain climber," says Roth. "Before they got cold did they somehow manage to decrease their oxygen consumption? Is that what protected them? Our work in nematodes and yeast suggests that this may be the case, and it may bring us a step closer to understanding what happens to people who appear to freeze to death but can be reanimated."

The idea here is not so much to place people into deep freeze in order to endure lengthy interstellar voyages, a staple idea in science fiction but unlikely in the near future.... Rather, Roth and his colleagues think that their work might lead to techniques that would let paramedics or doctors "buy time" for severely injured or ill patients by putting them into suspended states like those achieved by Nordby and Uchikoshi. Then, once the underlying problem had been fixed, they could be reanimated.

(Via The Register)