Hibernation in humans is near

That only happens in films. Let’s correct: it happened. People hibernating during long trips. Usually astronauts. This reduces biological time and food consumption. No, it’s not science fiction: human hibernation is near. This is shown by studies by the Japanese University of Tsukuba.

The study was published in Nature. Announces the finding of certain specific cells in the brain of mice. When activated, you can trigger a state that is similar to the idle state. And mice do not belong to the group of animals that hibernate naturally.

To the right of a normal mouse is a mouse that has entered sleep mode.
Slow it down

Those who normally hibernate in winter when food is scarce. Like bears. The metabolism slows down and the body temperature drops to the necessary minimum. It keeps the most important vital functions active and thus drastically reduces the energy consumption that the body needs. The heart rate also slows down and breathes weaker. Brain activity slows down to the subsistence level. When you wake up, and this is important, the animals are perfectly healthy. Thinner, yes, but healthy.

And now let’s go back to the mice from the Japanese experiment. The researchers, led by Takeshi Sakurai, show what happens by activating a certain type of brain cell called “Q neurons”. You can put the mice in a state that resembles hibernation for several days.

“The mice,” says Sakurai, “showed special properties that met the criteria for hibernation. The body temperature setpoint dropped from about 36 degrees to about 27. The body functioned normally to maintain lower temperatures of 22 degrees, even if we dramatically lowered the ambient temperature. “The mice also showed all the frequent signs of decreased metabolism during hibernation.

Astronauts hibernate in sight. The future.
Astronauts hibernate in sight. The future.
Astronauts hibernate in sight

It was unexpected to simply get the mice into this state using artificially stimulating Q neurons. “And even more surprising,” says Tohru Takahashi, who signed the article. We have managed to induce a similar hypometabolic state in a species that does not hibernate or has significant periods of lethargy. The possibility that people also have Q neurons with which a similar reaction can be triggered is tempting. “

“It is very likely that people do not want to overwinter for the same reasons that animals do,” Sunagawa says. But there are medical reasons for this. May be emergency transportation under critical conditions such as severe pneumonia if the oxygen supply is insufficient.

Hibernation in humans is near. This raises the question of space travel. “In the future,” Sakurai concludes, “we will be able to hibernate people for missions to Mars and beyond.”

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