Freezing: The New Science Of Cold

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Frozen. New science and a new understanding of life, death and freezing.

Crane shaped fountain is frozen at Hibiya Park in Tokyo, Monday, Jan. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
Crane shaped fountain is frozen at Hibiya Park in Tokyo, Monday, Jan. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

We say “don’t freeze to death” when people head out into real cold. And that’s a good idea. But we’re also captivated by the power of “frozen.” Frogs frozen stiff all winter that hop off, fresh and lively, in the spring. Bodies and brains frozen in hopes of reanimation. Athletes hitting the cryotank. Deep cold as a potential lifesaver in trauma and surgery. New techniques for bringing the nearly frozen-to-death back to life. This hour On Point, life, death, and the power of frozen.
-- Tom Ashbrook


Rene Ebersole, science writer. Features editor for Audubon Magazine. Author of the book, "Gorilla Mountain." Her January 12, 2016 piece for Outside Magazine is "How The New Science of Freezing Can Save Your Life." (@rebersole)

Gordon Giesbrecht, themophysiologist. Professor of kinesiology and recreation management at the University of Manitoba. Co-author, with James Wilkerson, of "Hypothermia, Frostbite and Other Cold Injuries." (@profpopsicle)

Dr. Sam Tisherman, profesoor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where he is also director of the division of critical care and trauma education.

Angie McRobbie, massage therapist at Synergy Sports Therapy in Berea, Ohio.

From Tom’s Reading List

Outside Magazine: How the New Science of Freezing Can Save Your Life -- "In the past half-century, we’ve become very good at freezing tiny things: blood, stem cells, tumors, semen, eggs, ovarian tissues, seeds, embryos. But researchers looking for ways to put the chill on complex tissues and organs face the same challenge that plagues the steak in your freezer: ice crystals, or freezer burn. When that forms, it damages tissues."

Washington Post: Being frozen ‘to death’ saved this man’s life. It could save others,’ too. — "Smith’s improbable survival is a story from the cutting edge of emergency medicine and, indeed, the edge of life itself. Thanks to new technology and an evolving understanding of what it means to be dead, doctors are increasingly able to bring “frozen” people back from the brink. And they’re starting to take advantage of the same mechanisms that allow the body to withstand seemingly lethal cold to save a whole host of other patients — victims of gunshots, heart attacks and spinal injuries and premature babies on the verge of brain damage who might otherwise be considered beyond rescue."

Smithsonian Magazine: This Radical Treatment Pushes Victims to the Brink of Death in Order to Save Their Lives — "In a sense, 'emergency preservation' is a kind of medically-induced hibernation. Ground squirrels, for instance, naturally drop their body temperatures to near below freezing to slow their metabolism during the winter months. Circulating saline solution through a human body achieves a similar effect: lowering body temperature causes cellular processes to scale back to a state in which organs can, for a short amount of time, subsist on their own."

This program aired on January 28, 2016.


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