Suspended animation, the technique most often used in science fiction movies such as Alien and Lost in Space, could soon be possible for humans.
Doctor's at the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh are to start trials on a process of suspending life using 10 patients who have wounds that would otherwise be lethal. The idea is that, rather than find a way for human beings to survive enormous passages of time during space travel as is most commonly used in sci-fi, the practice would eventually allow terminal patients to survive until medical procedures are discovered to help and cure them.
Anybody who reads the comic book 2000ad and Judge Dredd in particular will recognise the concept. One famous story, Forever Crimes, dealt with the subject specifically.
The real-world process under trial will remove all blood from each patient, replacing it with a cold saline solution. It will cool the body, suspend its functions and reduce the need for oxygen.
It has been performed on pigs in the past. With 90 per cent surviving the reawakening process when resuscitated at a medium speed. Those that lived demonstrated no physical or cognitive impairment.
Sadly, the human trials are only the first step to full suspended animation and more science fiction-centric use. As it stands, the process will only work for a maximum of a few hours. Still, you have to start somewhere.