Scientists at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks have successfully caused a group of arctic ground squirrels, naturally hibernating animals, to wake from and then go back into hibernation. It's the first time anyone has ever managed to induce hibernation, and it could have some pretty amazing medical benefits for humans as well.
Why is hibernation importnat? Hibernating animals can reduce their metabolism severely, which reduces heart rate and blood flow, enabling them to consume much less oxygen and survive in environments (especially in cold winters) that a non-hibernating animal would not be able to cope with.
These researchers discovered that the molecule that induces hibernation is adenosine, which is produced by all animals, including humans. When adenosine attaches itself to receptors in the brain, it causes the animal to feel sleepy. But in hibernating animals like the arctic ground squirrel, during hibernation season the body produces a huge amount of adenosine, which triggers a much more intense form of sleep--torpor, or hibernation. From that discovery, the scientists created an artificial form of adenosine as well as a synthetic version of caffeine, which was expected to have the opposite effect.
The results were actually a little mixed; the scientists definitely did managed to induce and reverse torpor in the ground squirrels, but that success was partly dependent on the season. During the middle of the hibernation season, torpor was successfully induced in every case, but only a third of the squirrels could be put back into hibernation during the early part of the hibernation season. The scientists are not quite sure yet how the season affects the animal's susceptibility to the drug.
Next up is an attempt with rats, which will give a better sense of how the drug might work on humans. And there are indeed some serious medical uses for induced hibernation: After intense episodes like a heart attack or stroke, many lives could be saved if highly reduced blood flow could be induced. Why else would DARPA be looking into it?
Another science fiction soon to become reality. Imagine if the age of the rats are increased through use of hibernation.
If this can be used on humans, imagine the possibilities for long term space travel? There would be less food needed on long trips, less time to get bored, reduce aging etc, etc....
Ya, lets just ignore that red squiggly before we post this article.
I wish I could hibernate for a couple months. Waiting on Diablo 3 =)
Hibernation is a key bridge to life extension. Presently, for every ten calendar years that we live, medicine is able to extend our lives by one more year. However, the pace of medical development is not going nearly fast enough at present. Therefore, if those of us alive today want to reach the point where medicine can keep us alive indefinitely then we will probably need to use hibernation. Cryogenics is overkill. Just dramatically slowing metabolism and other bodily functions may be enough to keep people alive for a few more decades, as technologies mature. Of course, additional technologies will be needed to make sure that the body does not entirely waste away during hibernation. Also, we do not yet know what the long term effects of hibernation may be on the brain and memory. We assume that people will just wake up, like they sometimes do from long comas, remembering everything up to the moment they went in. However, it may not work that way, at least over long periods of time. Obviously, a lot more study needs to be done.
The key to inducing hibernations is a good yawn. Seems as I yawn, so does everyone else in the room. See ya! ;)
When humans learn to hibernate, the other species will look at us like the Wraith from SGA. Everyone hide it is another calling!
@roguesquirrel lol yea and maybe cartman will have more success when he can no longer stand the wait for the wii u to come out he will break into this lab to steal some adenosine!
@I4Future lmao but i believe it is spelled culling.
this is the key to living forever.
The people of the world only divide into two kinds, One sort with brains who hold no religion, The other with religion and no brain.
- Abu-al-Ala al-Marri
In studying these arctic ground squirrels for hibernation, if any of these squirrels were inflicted with Narcolepsy, how would the researchers know?