X-Message-Number: 28220
Date: Fri, 14 Jul 2006 12:21:12 +0200
From: Eugen Leitl <>
Subject: "transhumanist nut-jobs, cryogenic suspension"

Remarkable, what passes for news these days.


Mike Duggan, a veterinary surgeon, holds his gloved hands over an 8-inch 
incision in the belly of pig 78-6, a 120-pound, pink Yorkshire. He   s waiting 
for a green light from Hasan Alam, a trauma surgeon at Massachu  setts General 

   Make the injury,    Alam says. Duggan nods and slips his hands into the gash,
   fingers probing through inches of fat and the rosy membranes holding the 
   organs in place. He pushes aside the intestines, ovaries, and bladder, and 
   with a quick scalpel stroke slices open the iliac artery. It   s 10:30 am. 
   Pig 78-6 loses a quarter of her blood within moments. Heart rate and blood 
   pressure plummet. Don   t worry     Alam and Duggan are going to save her.

Alam goes to work on the chest, removing part of a rib to reveal the heart, a 
throbbing, shiny pink ball the size of a fist. He cuts open the aorta     an 
even more lethal injury     and blood sprays all over our scrubs. The EKG 
flatlines. The surgeons drain the remaining blood and connect tubes to the aorta
and other vessels, filling the circulatory system with chilled 
organ-preservation fluid     a nearly frozen daiquiri of salts, sugars, and 
free-radical scavengers.

Her temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit; brain activity has ceased. Alam checks
the wall clock and asks a nurse to mark the time: 11:25 am.

But 78-6 is, in fact, only mostly dead     the common term for her state is, 
believe it or not, suspended animation. Long the domain of transhumanist 
nut-jobs, cryogenic suspension may be just two years away from clinical trials 
on humans (presuming someone can solve the sticky ethical problems). Trauma 
surgeons can   t wait     saving people with serious wounds, like gunshots, is 
always a race against the effects of blood loss. When blood flow drops, toxins 
accumulate; just five minutes of low oxygen levels causes brain death.

Chill a body, though, and you change the equation. Metabolism slows, oxygen 
demand dives, and the time available to treat the injury stretches.    With the 
pig essentially dead,    Alam says,    we   ve got hours to fix it and play 
around.    By noon the team has stitched up the arteries and gone to lunch. It 
has become   routine: Alam has suspended 200 pigs for an hour each, and although
experimental protocol calls for different levels of care for each pig, the ones
that got optimal treatment all survived. Today he   ll keep 78-6 down for two 

That afternoon, the team scrubs back in and starts pumping warm blood into 78-6,
watching the heart twitch and writhe like a bag of worms as it struggles to 
find a rhythm. A healthy heart should feel like a rare steak, Alam explains; 
medium or well-done   suggests muscle damage. He pokes it.    Medium,    he 
says, removing clamps to let it pump more blood. If he closes the chest too soon
and the heart tires, he won   t be able to save the animal.

A few minutes later, Alam touches the heart again.    Medium-rare,    he says.
Looks pretty good.    But he admits he   s ballparking.    It   s the 
gestalt,    he says.    It   s not in any book.   

Over the next hour, the surgeons stitch up 78-6. Everyone leaves except Alam, 
who perches on a stool at her side. When he removes her breathing tube, she 
breathes irregularly a few times and he leans in with a hand venti  lator, 
squeezing rhythmically and stroking her head. She quivers; her ear twitches.

By 6 pm she   s awake, draped in a blanket. Attendants roll her gurney into a 
recovery room with classical music playing on a radio and a healthy pig in an 
adjacent stall to keep her company. Pigs like that. Tests on other subjects     
and postmortem examinations of brains     have revealed no cognitive damage from
the   procedure, but Alam will nevertheless stick around until 78-6 gets back 
on her feet, around midnight.    She didn   t look so great before,    he says, 
patting the pig   s side.    But she   s going to make it.   

    Bijal P. Trivedi

Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://leitl.org">leitl</a> http://leitl.org
ICBM: 48.07100, 11.36820            http://www.ativel.com
8B29F6BE: 099D 78BA 2FD3 B014 B08A  7779 75B0 2443 8B29 F6BE

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