For the first time, humans have been placed in biostasis

Biostasis, or "suspended animation," is a hibernation-like technique that researchers and doctors believe could help save many lives in the future. Indeed, at present, there are already short or partial techniques that have an almost automatic and natural reversibility.

And now, scientists have been able to take a step further in this area: doctors have placed humans in biostasis for the first time, in a trial conducted in the United States and intended to allow the repair of traumatic lesions that otherwise would cause death.

Samuel Tisherman, of the University of Maryland's Faculty of Medicine, said his team of doctors had placed at least one suspended animation patient, calling this world premiere a "somewhat surreal" event. That is, Tisherman has not yet revealed the number of people who survived following the test.

The main goal is to prevent an impending death by ischemia

The technique used by the Tisherman team is officially called Emergency Preservation and Resuscitation (EPR). This is a medical procedure in which a patient is placed on biostasis for a period of time to prevent imminent death caused by ischemia, such as blood loss from a bullet or stab.

This technique is being tested on patients at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. More specifically, in patients with acute trauma (as mentioned above, who, for example, have a gunshot or knife wound) and have suffered cardiac arrest.

Following the trauma, their heart will have stopped beating and they may have lost more than half of their total amount of blood. In this situation, there are only a few minutes of life for patients, with less than 5% chance of survival, at least in normal times ...

Biostasis: rapid cooling of the body by replacing blood

Biostasis involves rapidly cooling a person to about 10 to 15 ° C by replacing all his blood with a very cold saline solution. In doing so, the brain activity of the patient stops almost completely. He is then disconnected from the cooling system and the body (which would otherwise be classified as dead) is transferred to the operating room. From this point on, the surgical team has approximately 2 hours to repair the person's wounds before the person warms up again, and his / her heart starts up again.

Now, Tisherman hopes to be able to announce the full results of the test by the end of 2020.

It should be known that a so-called normal body temperature is about 37°C, and our cells need a constant supply of oxygen to produce energy and therefore survive. When our heart stops beating, the blood no longer transports oxygen to the cells, and without it our brain can only survive for about 5 minutes before irreversible damage occurs.

However, lowering body and brain temperature slows down or stops all chemical reactions in our cells, which therefore require less oxygen.

The test has been approved by the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration). In fact, the FDA has decided not to require patients' consent, as they believe the injuries of the patients may be fatal and that in any case there will be no alternative treatment.

Gives surgeons more time to save more lives

Tisherman's interest in trauma research began with an early incident in his career in which a young man was stabbed to the heart after an altercation.

"He was a healthy young man a few minutes ago, and suddenly he was dead. We could have saved him if we had enough time," he says. This event led him to begin to look for ways in which cooling the body could give surgeons more time to do their jobs, and save lives.

Studies in animals have already shown very promising results: for example, pigs with acute trauma could be cooled for 3 hours, then treated, and then resuscitated.

"We felt it was time to apply this technology to our patients," said Tisherman. "We are doing it now and we are learning a lot as we go through the trial. Once we have proven that it works (on human patients), we can expand the utility of this technique to help some patients in critical conditions to survive, which would otherwise be  impossible," he added. "I want to make it clear that we are not trying to send people to Saturn.  We are just trying to save time to save lives," he said.

At present, we do not know exactly how much time we have precisely when such a cooling of the body. And when a person's cells are warmed up later, they can be damaged and can cause a range of chemical reactions, potentially damaging them again. To sum up, the longer the cells stay without oxygen, the greater the damage will be.

According to Tisherman, it would be entirely possible to administer a cocktail of drugs to patients in order to minimize injuries and prolong the duration of the biostasis, "but we have not yet identified all the causes of the injuries due to reperfusion," he says. It was last Monday, at a symposium at the New York Academy of Sciences, that Tisherman described the progress of the team.

VIDEO: A revolutionary approach that could save many lives ...



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