For most of my life, suspended animation has been one of those "someday" developments which are the fodder for pop-science magazine cover stories. Someday humans will visit Mars. Someday we'll have fusion power. Someday we'll have artificial intelligence. Someday . . .
Well, someday may be getting closer, at least as far as suspended animation goes. According to the Arizona Daily Star, Dr. Peter Rhee, at Tucson's University Medical Center, wants to do human trials on suspended animation within a year. The FDA has approved it. He's at the point of getting funding. This isn't "someday," it's "FY 2012" or whatever.
Now, this isn't quite the "human popsicle" suspended animation beloved of science fiction writers. Nobody's talking about long-term suspended animation, at least not yet. What Dr. Rhee wants to do is chill trauma patients down to about 50 degrees to shut down their metabolism almost entirely. Then surgeons can do long and complex operations on the heart or lungs without worrying that the patient's brain is going to die. Apparently he's already done extensive testing on animals.
And for all the hungry grad students trying to figure out how much they'd get paid for letting someone chill them down for a few hours, I've got bad news. Rhee's tests will be at trauma centers, in cases where the procedure might save someone who's pretty much guaranteed to die otherwise.
Suspended animation, or "frozen sleep" or "hypersleep" or "cryosleep" or "low passage" has been a staple of science fiction since before there was "science fiction." Local boy Edward Bellamy used it as a gimmick to get his hero into the year 2000 in his novel Looking Backward, and H.G. Wells pretty much ripped him off entirely in his novel The Sleeper Awakes. In both books, the notion was just a handwave to let a contemporary character visit the distant future.
Discussions of realistic interstellar travel tend to split into those advocating "generation" starships which would carry an entire self-sustaining biosphere and society for the duration of the voyage, and those which rely on suspended animation to let the passengers snooze away the trip while robots handle the vessel.
Given that Dr. Rhee's work is focused on suspended animation lasting on the order of minutes rather than millennia, I'd say there's still a long way to go. But someday . . .