From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Suspended animation is the slowing of life processes by external means without termination. Breathing, heartbeat, and other involuntary functions may still occur, but they can only be detected by artificial means. Extreme cold can be used to precipitate the slowing of an individual's functions; use of this process has led to the developing science of cryonics. Cryonics is another method of life preservation but it cryopreserves organisms using liquid nitrogen that will preserve the organism until reanimation. Laina Beasley was kept in suspended animation as a two-celled embryo for 13 years.
Placing astronauts in suspended animation has been proposed as one way for an individual to reach the end of an interstellar or intergalactic journey, avoiding the necessity for a gigantic generation ship; occasionally the two concepts have been combined, with generations of "caretakers" supervising a large population of frozen passengers.
Since the 1970s, induced hypothermia has been performed for some open-heart surgeries as an alternative to heart-lung machines. Hypothermia, however, only provides a limited amount of time in which to operate and there is a risk of tissue and brain damage for prolonged periods.