A pill that may increase resistance to cold is being tested at the Arctic Aeromedical Laboratory near Fairbanks, Alaska.

The pill contains glycine, an amino-acid that causes the body to generate more heat than it can otherwise produce. It is hoped the pill might enable men to stay alive longer in icy water, and hasten the warming of a man who has been chilled to a critical point of exposure.

At the laboratory, operated by the Air Force at Ladd Air Force Base, volunteers are taking the pills with no evidence of ill effect. If the tests are successful the pills could be included in survival kits.

Glycine also may make possible a technique of heart surgery in which the heart can be chilled to the point where it stops for an hour or more without suffering damage. According to scientists working at the Air Force laboratory, the heart suffers “ventricular fibrillation” when its temperature is lowered to about 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

This is a loss of rhythmic beat, which causes death. Hence, in heart surgery, the organ can be chilled only enough to stop its beating for six or eight minutes. Glycine in the bloodstream may enable the heart to be chilled past this critical temperature.

Extensive research has been carried out at the laboratory with Negroes, Eskimos, and whites to find out why some ethnic groups seem more resistant to cold than others. Among Negroes who agreed to act as subjects in the experiments, basal metabolism—that is, their rate of energy production—fell more rapidly than it did in white men. Similar studies of Eskimos produced no evidence that their bodies were better equipped for the cold than those of white men. The Eskimos’ ability to endure extremely low temperatures seems based on acquired skills and excellently adapted clothing and diet.

—Walter Sullivan in The New York Times

  1. Firebrand38 says: September 7, 20089:01 am

    The abstract from the 1961 Final Report explains that it didn’t work:

    Glycine (amino-acetic acid) and other calorigenic, dietary adjuncts have received considerable attention recently and have been reported to modify whole body responses to cold exposure and hypothermia. In addition to any pharmacological action, the potential value of glycine and similar materials lies in their ability to provide ADDITIONAL CALORIES TO THE COOLING ORGANISM VIA THE MECHANISM OF SPECIFIC DYNAMIC ACTION. Thirty grams of glycine were administered orally to five volunteer, male subjects who were subsequently exposed nude to an environment of 10 C. Measurements of rectal and extremity surface temperatures and whole body metabolic rates failed to show any statistically significant effects that could be attributed to the influence of glycine, as compared to glucose control measurements, throughout a 1-hour cold exposure. At this level of cold stress and drug dosage, glycine could not be seen to affect cold elicited, physiological responses and its values in mitigating human cold exposure is questioned. Reports of glycine effects for more severe cold stresses or during deep hypothermia may possibly be attributed to a more precipitous rate of heat loss, to a greater degree of cooling, or to other factors.

  2. fluffy says: September 7, 200810:21 am

    Now one pill which COULD work is MDMA cut with amphetamines. Of course, there’s some other fun side effects that might not make it quite appropriate for that circumstance.

  3. Charlie says: September 7, 200811:20 am

    fluffy: True, you would loose a lot of heat to people trying to pet the snow.

  4. Pinky says: June 15, 20097:43 am

    Glycine disrupts the energy-generating process within cells, causing potential energy to be released as heat instead of ATP, which is the fuel that powers cells. This mean the body (mainly fat tissue) actually produces heat to keep warm. It is not a drug that blocks the feeling of cold. Of course this requires energy; use of glycine in a survival situation would require energy supplementation in a condensed and easily assimilated form.

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