Hibernating bears in Alaska can have body temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and heart rates as slow as four beats per minute. The spiny desert mouse can go into a state of torpor to deal with desert heat. And some frogs can completely freeze and then thaw out just fine, as if nothing happened. What if we could induce such a state in humans? That ability to induce "biostasis" would be most useful for people suffering traumatic injuries, such as gunshot wounds or strokes, when bleeding and other body damage continues after the initial event. Slowing down the body's metabolism would allow time to access medical intervention. We've seen this a few times in drowning victims, when very cold water slows down the body's response and lengthens the time before death is inevitable.
There is such a drug undergoing tests now. DARPA, the research arm of the US military, has a small molecule drug called SNC80. It was used on tadpoles and "froze" all the organs in the tadpoles' bodies without lowering the temperature. It entered all the tissues, stopping metabolic processes even at the mitochondrial level. When the drug was drained (how this was done is not described), the tadpoles went about their business as usual. It has also been tested on human cell cultures, and various other animal organs, such as a pig's heart, with amazing results.
While medical intervention is the immediate goal of inducing biostasis, it could also be used to help space travelers survive long distance voyages. Read about biostasis and the drug SNC80 at Nautilus. -via Damn Interesting