Is hibernation now possible?

As in science fiction, hibernation may be closer than we think. And in addition to making it possible to reach the most distant places in the universe, the method would also have a wide range of revolutionary medical applications.

We all know this process in science fiction: a human being is induced into an unnatural sleep, often in a tub or pod, to preserve it during the journey into deep space and keep it in a suspended state. Meanwhile, the ship will travel incredible distances, which will last tens of years. And so the human being will be able to awaken as if not a minute had passed.

Until recently it was almost impossible to let a man sleep for more than 2 weeks without consequences. But a recently published study is based on a growing field of research that according to some experts is “revolutionizing” our understanding of the brain’s ability to regulate body heat.

The secret seems, as always, to learn from nature.

Hibernation is, of course, observable in the natural world. Mammals hibernate by lowering body temperature and thereby significantly slow down their metabolism, conserving energy in the winter months when food is scarce. Although the precise mechanisms are unclear, previous research on this process indicates that the central nervous system is involved in thermoregulation, raising the temperature in the form of fevers that fight infections.

A recent study, published in Nature, illustrates in detail how researchers from the University of Tsukuba have been able to identify neurons in rodent brains that can be artificially activated to send animals into a state that is very reminiscent of hibernation. The results are remarkable because, just like humans, rats and mice do not hibernate, although mice often go into a similar but very short state called numbness.

The authors of the study said that further research could allow for a way to induce hibernation in humans, something that would be useful for many medical applications, as well as being relevant for space exploration.

Medical applications could include therapeutic hypothermia, which would reduce tissue damage, as well as organ preservation for transplants.

NASA is also already focusing on this field and is working on forms for hibernation, entering into a contract with the private organization Spaceworks, to developing habitats for deep sleep travel in space.

Who knows, maybe the first astronauts on Mars will reach the Red Planet after a period of hibernation.

At this link the complete study