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Biotech Science

Mad Scientist Brings Back Dead With "Deanimation" 501

mattnyc99 writes "Esquire is running a a jaw-dropping profile of MacArthur genius Marc Roth in their annual Best and Brightest roundup, detailing how this gonzo DNA scientist (who also figured out how to diagnose lupus correctly) went from watching his infant daughter die to literally reincarnating animals. Inspired by NOVA and funded by DARPA, Roth has developed a serum for major biotech startup Ikaria that successfully accomplished 'suspended animation' — the closest we've ever come to simulating near-death experiences and then coming back to life. From the article: 'We don't know what life is, anyway. Not really. We just know what life does — it burns oxygen. It's a process of combustion. We're all just slow-burning candles, making our way through our allotment of precious O2 until it becomes our toxin, until we burn out, until we get old and die. But we live on 21 percent oxygen, just as we live at 37 degrees. They're related. Decrease the oxygen to 5 percent, we die. But, look, the concentration of oxygen in the blood that runs through our capillaries is only 2 or 3 percent. We're almost dead already! So what if we turn down the candle's need for oxygen? What if we dim the candle so much that we don't even have the energy to die?' " The writer Tom Junod engages in what Hunter Thompson once called "a failed but essentially noble experiment in pure gonzo journalism." If you can suspend your inner critic for a time, it's a fun ride.
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Mad Scientist Brings Back Dead With "Deanimation"

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  • DARPA! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by staryc ( 852301 ) <melissavoegeliMN AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @07:35PM (#25968249)
    Is it any coincidence that DARPA is Sanskrit for arrogance in this situation?
  • Re:Whoa boy... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @07:46PM (#25968411) Journal

    The issue I have here is that bringing someone back from suspended animation where they were alive to begin with ...

    Here's a better question: When do you think anyone in their right mind will ok that procedure? Think about it, you're taking a perfectly alive human being and ... putting them at risk of death? For the purposes of? I know someone will compare this to the risk of life we took putting someone on the moon but I see little to no merit in this procedure.

    If you think they're going to run into federal problems, that's only the start of it. This is probably going to be a always-20-years-away technology although it does make for entertainment.

  • by Brigadier ( 12956 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @07:52PM (#25968485) [] search zombie

  • Re:Whoa boy... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Matimus ( 598096 ) <<mccredie> <at> <>> on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @08:13PM (#25968773)
    Seriously? If I was bleeding to death, and there was no equipment around to stop the bleeding enough to keep me alive, I would welcome this procedure.

    You are correct that there is no good reason to do this for fun, but if the choice is death or entering a potentially risky state of suspended animation, I will choose the later.

    Keep in mind that the majority of the research is for exactly that purpose.

  • Re:Whoa boy... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @08:20PM (#25968875)

    > Here's a better question: When do you think anyone in their
    > right mind will ok that procedure? Think about it, you're
    > taking a perfectly alive human being and ... putting them at
    > risk of death? For the purposes of? I know someone will
    > compare this to the risk of life we took putting someone on
    > the moon but I see little to no merit in this procedure.

    You are not being very imaginative.
    Imagine a sick patient, in need of a long and complex heart
    operation. Imagine that the risk of complications during the
    procedure is extremely high.
    Imagine that you could put the patient in suspended animation,
    perform the risky procedure, and 'reanimate' the patient only
    when his pieces are correctly put together.

    I think this is something worth pursuing, although it will
    not probably happen tomorrow or next week.

  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @08:27PM (#25968959)

    overpopulation won't be a problem becasue humans, like all biological creatures will only expand to meet the amount of food that is available.

    Overpopulation isn't a problem after the ones who starved are dead, you are correct sir. But if nobody is dying anymore than no new people are arriving to take their place. No more evolution.

    For my part, I think one lifetime is enough for me. There's some tricks in life that are only meant to be seen once. I don't believe in a heaven or a hell, but even if they cured aging tomorrow, I wouldn't take it. Let someone take my place when I've had my fill, I'm not greedy. I don't want to live forever, just to live long enough to prove out this childish hope I've had that life could be more than this.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @08:46PM (#25969159) Journal

    You're either dead or you're not.

    Define death.

    As the cryonicists say, "Death is not a state. It's a prognosis." It's a claim that the organism will not be restored from its current state to a level of function that is considered alive.

    Last time I looked (which was a while ago) trauma centers were regularly reviving victims who drowned in cold water and had been "dead" for half an hour. Surgeons were taking advantage of this by precooling patients who needed surgery that would leave the brain without blood flow for similar times. And research labs had perfused a dog with suitable protective substances, stopped its heart, cooled its body to freezing temperatures, left it that way for some time, then revived it. (And this guy has improved on that using H2S.)

    Were the drowning victims "dead"? Was the dog?

    There are people who are long since frozen - in full body or brain only - in the hope that they can some day be repaired (or built into a fresh body). If that is successful, are those people now "dead"? Or are they just resting at liquid nitrogen temperatures?

  • Re:Space travel etc. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by robertjw ( 728654 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @09:08PM (#25969391) Homepage
    You will just have to prove you weren't integrated into society to start with.
  • by M0b1u5 ( 569472 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @09:44PM (#25969765) Homepage

    What interests me here is his claim that we don't know much about life. And I guess there's a large element of truth here.

    If you take a person who has just died, and look at any one of their billions of cells, you will find that they are ALL still "alive"; consuming oxygen, things moving around in them; proteins being formed... until the oxygen runs out.

    So, you are in the curious state of being dead, while almost all of your cells are still clinically alive. It's quite fascinating really.

    From these facts, we can reliable assert that human life is not dependent on cellular activity. There is a lot more to it than that.

    Additionally, we now know that resuscitating humans who are "dead" (cold water near drowning, heart attack etc.) re-introduces oxygen, and it's the ocygen which actually kills you.

    At what point does oxygen become the thing which kills you during a resus' event?

    Are there ways to "immunize" a "dead" person so that re-animation is possible without brain death or cellular suicide due to rapid infusion of O2?

    If we learn to re-animate people by immunizing them prior to resus', at what point after traditional "death" is a body no longer able to be revived? What does that say about the "time of death" or even how to declare someone "dead"?

  • by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @09:48PM (#25969823)
    The speed of light is not some magical, mystical value that can never be touched. Light is just a waveform of photons. You can slow it down and you can speed it up. Both have already been done [], and when it gets sped up it does actually arrive before it leaves. One must try to avoid conflating the confusing and improbable with the impossible.
  • Re:Space travel etc. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gr8Apes ( 679165 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @10:12PM (#25970023)

    Try the enormous gulf just between 1995 and today.

    • the web
    • cell phones
    • death of in-country long distance fees
    • death of CDs
    • ipods and music downloads
    • death of VHS
    • Netflix
    • VoD
    • last and certainly not least: Google

    Go back another 10 years

    • computers
    • email
    • outsourcing of white collar jobs
    • access to 100s of TV channels and the death of "snow"
    • the rise (and fall) of casette tapes (8-track and reel-to-reel sucked, if you ever used either for storing and convenient playback)
    • the rise of CDs and artificially inflated prices leading to the rise of the current RIAA juggernaut
    • VCRs
    • death of rotary phones and the Ma Bell stranglehold on telecom

    There were huge similar sweeping changes for each decade all the way back to roughly the 1870s or so when the effects of the industrial revolution started directly affecting people's lives and livelihoods. And here's a hint: the degree of change is accelerating still, we'll probably see some of the most interesting times we can imagine, old Chinese curses not withstanding.

  • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @10:33PM (#25970205) Journal
    Although your points are valid they are rather narrow in that they implicitly define 'alive' as the potential for consiousness, the GP's point that doesn't make sense to you was that there is no black & white definition of 'alive'.

    For example the wood frog [] can allow itself to freeze solid for the winter and will thaw out in spring with no ill affects despite the fact it hasn't had a heartbeat or any sign of brain activity for months. By your tests the frog is dead during the winter and alive again in the spring.
  • Re:Space travel etc. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @10:34PM (#25970221)

    That just speaks to how slowely "natural" evolution works and how little we've mentaly progressed in thousands upon thousands of years.

    I would go even futher and say we could bring back people before modern language and they could adapt, of course they would need a physciatrist but don't we all!!!

  • Warm and dead (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vik ( 17857 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @10:39PM (#25970259) Homepage Journal

    As an EMT volunteer we're told that a person isn't dead until they're warm and dead. Many people have been declared cold and dead, stored in the morgue, then scared the living crap out of the attendant complaining that it's bloody cold in there!

    Vik :v)

  • by davolfman ( 1245316 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @11:36PM (#25970859)
    What's interesting is that we're talking metabolic suspended animation. It's actually a pretty old idea. I remember reading about it for the first time in "The Star are Ours!" an old Andre Norton scifi novel.
  • Re:Whoa boy... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aliquis ( 678370 ) <> on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @11:53PM (#25971085) Homepage

    Is there any memory checksums in the human brain or will the whole system screw up if some parts is accidently lost? :D

    Hum, Redundant Array of Independent Brains ...

    *goes back to planing*

  • by Renraku ( 518261 ) on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @02:08AM (#25972139) Homepage

    When most nerve cells in the brain die, they release their chemicals into the space surrounding the cells. A lot of them are toxic to other brain cells, which cause the other brain cells to die. And then more, and then more.

    Fairly recently a drug was developed to stop this chemical cascade, and it works well. It could be combined with this treatment to further limit brain damage caused by lack of oxygen.

  • Re:Space travel etc. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Walpurgiss ( 723989 ) on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @04:49AM (#25972867)
    Not with email fully supplanting snail mail, quantum entanglement used to teleport things, and Roomba(c) brand auto-shovelers. not to mention escalators, and trash -> bio fuel converters in every home/car. Books? In the Vatican maybe.

    Of course, the paperless office hasn't really worked out so far, so I doubt the shitjobless society will work out anytime soon either. Maybe if you cryo until 12947 and by some miracle we havn't killed ourselves off yet.
  • by aliquis ( 678370 ) <> on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @07:03AM (#25973379) Homepage

    Dunno, wasn't some philosophical dude saying that we have two "life powers", each competing for trying to have us stay alive or die?

    It's rather easy to see in what way we tries to stay alive, avoiding dangers and such, but the other one makes itself remembered in enjoying the calm when not much happens, sleeping, will to just give up if you're like freezing to near death and such.

    Sometimes life is a pain and in those cases the neutral "nothing" is nicer (though sometime the (emotional) pain is nice to because it makes you feel alive / know you're living.)

  • Re:Space travel etc. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @08:24AM (#25973779)

    This will be avery long reply, but I found this to be an interesting thought experiment. I think you underestimate the potential trauma of being transplanted in time. It's not the technology that would take adapting to - I'm sure people would love hopping in a car and being across town in a matter of minutes, or across the country or world in a matter of hours. I'm sure people would love talking to their friends miles away on the phone instead of waiting to see them in person. I'm sure curious, technical people would love finding out about the new inventions and discoveries. But to my mind it's the daily grind, the everyday social events that would be confusing and upsetting to a time immigrant. A few off the top of my head (with an admittedly U.S - centric bias on my part)

    1. Money - The economy was a much simpler beast back in the day. It was easier for the common, educated man to grasp the functions of money. There were no 30-year mortgages, so average people didn't own homes or have to bother with the vagaries of real estate, unless they were wealthy. There was nothing like the credit we have today - it was almost impossible for the average person to spend themselves into debt so deep that it would take them years to work it off by buying cheap crap. You might have a tab at local stores, but if you ran up bad credit your score didn't follow you, so you could move to the next town over and start over by building new relationships. I think a 1908 person set loose on today's world would without guidance would either become confused and paranoid by the types of financial decisions people make everyday, or they would throw caution to the wind and spend themselves into horrible debt without really understanding what happened.
    2. Equality. In 1908 America was a very unequal place, segregation was not just a social phenomenon, it was a relatively unquestioned law. Adult women were often treated as children of their fathers and/or husbands. Homosexuality was not just thought to be sinful, but a mental illness for which one could and should be locked up - if they weren't killed first. Even a relatively liberal minded white male from the time would likely feel uneasy living and working side-by-side with minorities, women and un-closeted gays. And any man who tried to get in a relationship with his 1908 expectations of a girlfriend or wife would be in for a rude awakening - if not by her sense of independence, then by the jealousy they feel when she shows bare skin of her legs, shoulders or stomach in public, or the way that she is perfectly free to divorce him without legal cause, or call the police if she felt threatened. All of these are good things, but they would be incredibly shocking to a white male from the time raised with certain expectations.

    2. Social interraction - In 1908 there were rural folks and there were city dwellers, but there was not yet this mass suburbia. Furthermore, whereas people in the past stayed put in their hometown, and even houses could be passed down across generations - people today move constantly. We talk of "starter houses," for even if one stays in the same town, it's simply expected they will change their address every now and then - and frequently they will move to other states and other countries. I think a turn of the century person could quickly start to feel isolated and confused by this mobility - neighbors who aren't really neighbors, but just people passing by - friends and even family that "abandon" you to move 3000 miles away, or perhaps to another continent for a job.

    3. Impersonal - In 1908 people felt loyal to the companies they worked for - for some, your company could be like a 2nd family, and you could very well work there from your first job till the day you died. I think a 1908 person (at least a non-laboring class person) would be shocked and perhaps betrayed by how even valuable people are treated like cogs in corporate machines.

    4. Information overload - 1908 was before the invention of truly mass media. The radio

  • Re:Space travel etc. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by YttriumOxide ( 837412 ) <yttriumox@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @11:45AM (#25975697) Homepage Journal
    Yeh, it'd be sad, and I'd definitely shed a tear or two, but then I'd get over it and move on. As it is, I don't see what's left of my family more than once every few years (I say "what's left" since some have already died) and I don't have any friends so close that being without them would cause me extreme distress. Basically, I'd expect the "sad, moping around, missing people" stage to last up to a month at most, and then I'd be pretty much fine with the new friends I would have made. (actually, I also expect it'd take a week or two to get to the "sad" stage, since the first week would be the "holy crap, what the hell, I've been reanimated!" stage)
  • Re:Whoa boy... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Danny Rathjens ( 8471 ) <slashdot2@ra[ ] ['thj' in gap]> on Wednesday December 03, 2008 @03:15PM (#25978539)
    Yeah, I'm quite thankful for endoscopic surgery. I had a tumor in my sinus cavity that if I had lived even just 20 years earlier they would have had to slice open half my face to remove it which would have required reconstructive surgery just to look somewhat normal again. Since they were able to remove it all endoscopically through my nose, my only permanent effect is some nerve damage which isn't visible to anyone.

    I also had what they call a "hot" gall bladder which had to be removed, and they were able to do that with a small hole in my abdomen and belly button and send me home the next day - rather than the huge scar-creating openings they used to have to cut into you for organ removals like that.

    These "neat tricks" that make surgeries easier to recover from and more efficient can make a big difference to people. :)

    The other neat trick they did before the tumor removal was entering through my thigh and running a probe up my artery through my neck into my head and releasing little pellets to block the blood flow to the tumor which caused it to shrink and make the removal process easier.

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