This technique, also known as emergency preservation and resuscitation (EPR), involves rapidly cooling a person’s body temperature to about 10-15C and replace their blood with ice-cold saline solution. This essentially stops brain activity which is important because otherwise, a brain deprived of oxygen can only survive for 5 minutes before irreversible damage kicks in.
By lowering the body’s temperature stopping brain activity, it means that there is a higher chance that if the operation is successful, the patient will be able to come out of the procedure (relatively) healthy. The use of EPR will be helpful in situations where a patient is critically injured and might only have minutes to operate on them, but with EPR, that window has been extended to about 2 hours.
According to Samuel Tisherman, one of the researchers involved in the project, this is less about suspending our bodies and preparing it for space travel, but more about saving lives. “I want to make clear that we’re not trying to send people off to Saturn. We’re trying to buy ourselves more time to save lives.”
That being said, this isn’t necessarily a homerun just yet as it has been suggested that once the patient has been warmed up, their cells could experience reperfusion injuries, but it seems to be a step in the right direction.