Suspended animation achieved via rotten eggs

March 26, 2008 | 07:33

Tags: #space-travel

If you've always wanted to see the future but got outbid on the eBay auction for a Delorean (with Mr. Fusion attachment, naturally) then the Massachusetts General Hospital may have the answer to your prayers: suspended animation.

A study published by the Massachusetts General Hospital in Anaesthesiology – a journal aimed at knock-out artists – reports on its attempts to use hydrogen sulphide to suspend the metabolism of the ever-useful lab rat. As anyone with a chemistry degree will recognise, hydrogen sulphide is more commonly known as “the stuff wot makes old eggs stink.”

Warren Zapol, chief of Anaesthesia and Critical Care at the hospital, describes the breakthrough as "as close to instant suspended animation as you can get, and the preservation of cardiac contraction, blood pressure and organ perfusion is remarkable."

Prior studies into the effects of the substance on mice had proven that it causes metabolic slowdown, but these latest tests show that the effect was due purely to the hydrogen sulphide and not due to attendant hypothermia.

Previous attempts at suspended animation have involved pumping freshly-dead individuals full of antifreeze and dunking them in liquid nitrogen – sure, it's cool (no pun intended) but there's that ever-so-irritating problem with cells expanding and bursting their walls at low temperatures. I don't know about you, but I want to be awoken in the year 3000 with all appendages intact and fully functional.

Obviously, it's going to take a while to get from “mouse gets knocked out for five minutes” to “waking up in the year 3000”, but it's a promising start. If the technology can be adapted to drastically slow – or even halt – the human body's metabolism without the side effects caused by freezing then a wide range of possibilities for the future are opened up, from preventing organ damage during prolonged surgery to realistic stellar colonisation.

Plus it'd really cut down on your perceived waiting time for Duke Nukem Forever.

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