March 28, 2008
Suspended animation experiments to send mice in a trance
Many science fiction stories evolve around intergalactic travel by humans who have been kept in suspended animation by generations of caretakers who travel with them in spaceships. Although the real trials of such a phenomenon have been successful in conducting heart transplants or surgery, it’s practical uses are speculative. However Warren Zapol, MD, chief of Anesthesia and Critical Care at MGH and senior author of the Anesthesiology study has another use of this. He thinks it could be used to get rid of the oldest problem known to humanity. RATS! Yes you heard right, if rats are given low dosages of hydrogen sulfide they could end in a trance and not bother us. In all the mice, metabolic measurements such as consumption of oxygen and production of carbon dioxide dropped in as little as 10 minutes after they began inhaling hydrogen sulfide. They remained low as long as the gas was administered, and returned to normal within 30 minutes of resuming a normal air supply. The animals’ heart rate dropped nearly 50 percent during hydrogen sulfide administration, but there was no significant change in blood pressure or the strength of the heart beat. While respiration rate also decreased, there were no changes in blood oxygen levels, suggesting that vital organs were not at risk of oxygen starvation.
The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and Linde Gas Therapeutics. Additional co-authors of the Anesthesiology report are Robert Searles, Binglan Yu, PhD, Fumito Ichinose, MD, and Kenneth Bloch, MD, MGH Anesthesia; and Marielle Scherrer-Crosbie, MD, MGH Cardiology.