The Washington Post reports, "Scientists have induced a state close to suspended animation in a mammal for the first time, a long-sought achievement that could lead to a host of medical advances for people. " This, they did to mice, by exposing them to low concentrations (80 parts per million) of hydrogen sulfide gas. Note that mice (like humans) don't number among those mammals that hibernate naturally. Yet the process slowed the mice's metabolisms by about 90 percent. After six hours, the researchers exposed the mice to fresh air. The mice quickly began to waken. After two hours, they showed every sign of functioning normally.
Wow. In terms of life-saving potential, this good news ranks up there with the discovery of general anesthesia. Assuming, as seems plausible, that the same process will work on humans, induced hibernation will prove useful for a wide variety of medical treatments. Because it preserves organs and other tissues while slowing metabolism to a near standstill, it will buy time for critically ill patients awaiting organ transplants, minimize the damage from heart attacks and strokes, and reduce the side effects of cancer chemotherapy and radiation.
Of even more general interest, induced hibernation offers a kindler, gentler alternative to cryonic suspension. Each of us living today faces the risk of death, a risk that advancing medical technology stands to radically reduce. Induced hibernation can help us win in the race between death and technology. Facing a currently uncurable illness, you could go into hibernation until science catches up with your problem. And the treatment wouldn't face all the (mostly ill-founded but still quite influential) objections that currently dog cryonics! If, like me, you love life, you can join me in rejoicing over this news.