Thursday, October 15, 2009

Postponing Death

Many people are focusing on ways to extend life, but one scientist may have found a way to stop the process of death completely - for a short while at least.

Biologist Mark Roth has discovered that breathing a mild concentration of sulfur hydroxide (a poisonous gas) causes laboratory mice to go into a kind of suspended animation. Their cellular processes shut down due to a lack of oxygen, but the cells don't degrade as they normally would - also due to a lack of oxygen. Sulfur hydroxide so completely replaces the oxygen in the animal's cells that biological processes - including death - simply don't occur. The cells go into a sort of chemical stasis. They can be held in that condition for several hours, then when the oxygen is restored the animal snaps out of its stupor and goes about its normal life, no the worse for the experience.

This process is being developed as a potential way to keep accident and trauma victims alive longer while doctors search for ways to correct their maladies. So far research for larger animals has been disappointing, but Roth and several other researchers are diligently seeking for ways to expand the effect to humans.

Maybe it won't let you live forever, but it just might keep you alive after that heart attack long enough for doctors to get your condition under control. Pretty amazing science!

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