* In May 1999, a female Norwegian skier was rescued after submersion in icy water for more than an hour. When rescued she was clinically dead with no heartbeat, no respiration, and her body temperature had fallen to 57 degrees Fahrenheit (normal is 98.6 F). She was resuscitated and since has made a good physical and mental recovery.
* More recently, in February 2001, Canadian toddler Erika Nordby made headlines around the world ?and a complete recovery ?after she wandered outside at night and nearly froze to death. Before she was resuscitated her heart had stopped beating for two hours and her temperature had plunged to 61 F.
"Understanding the connections between random instances of seemingly miraculous, unexplained survival in so-called clinically dead humans and our ability to induce ?and reverse ?metabolic quiescence in model organisms could have dramatic implications for medical care," Roth said. "In the end I suspect there will be clinical benefits and it will change the way medicine is practiced, because we will, in short, be able to buy patients time."
In the Science paper, Roth and colleagues report inducing a state of clinical torpor in mice for up to six hours before restoring their normal metabolic function and activity.
They achieved this by placing the mice in a chamber filled with normal room air laced with 80 parts per million of hydrogen sulfide, a chemical normally produced in humans and animals that is believed to help regulate body temperature and metabolic activity.
Within minutes of breathing the hydrogen sulfide and room-air cocktail, the mice stopped moving and appeared to lose consciousness, their respiration dropped from the normal 120 breaths per minute to fewer than 10 breaths per minute, and their