Index – Technology – Science – The mystery of hibernation can be solved
Without surgery or genetic modification, University of Washington staff were able to induce a torpor similar to winter sleep in mice with the help of ultrasound directed at the brain.
Winter is difficult in terms of survival, it is a cold and malnourished period for animals – many species have adapted to this by hibernating, that is, sleeping deeper than usual in the evening, which is accompanied by hypothermia, a slowdown in metabolism and heartbeat.
Humans have long envied the ability to hibernate, which can be of great use in a survival situation or during explorations such as space exploration. Although he inherited this kind of biological background, science could not provide him. Doing an ultrasound could be a breakthrough in this story.
Ultrasound is the only energy that can penetrate the skull non-invasively and target a specific region of the brain with millimeter accuracy without ionizing radiation.
write the researchers nature metabolism In an article published in his columns.
The essence of ultrasound-induced hypothermia is that ultrasound pulses are delivered to the preoperative brain region of experimental animals (its role in winter sleep is known since 2020). The effect was almost instantaneous, the treatment with 3.2 megahertz pulses activated neurons after just ten seconds, the heart slowed, oxygen consumption shifted, and metabolism shifted to using fats instead of carbohydrates, while body temperature dropped by 3 degrees.
The mice woke up after a few hours, but the researchers weren’t happy with that. Using a device attached to the animals’ heads, ultrasounds were performed automatically as soon as their body temperature rose, so they could keep the mice in continuous sleep for 24 hours without any harm or other negative effects.
The same effect could be induced with a smaller decrease in temperature, but also in mice, suggesting that in mammals other than hibernating, for example
It can also work in humans.
This is a great achievement despite the fact that, at the moment, they have not been able to describe exactly how hibernation occurs by stimulating any of the nerves.
According to professional skeptics, what we see is not a dream in the winter, the mice were only defending themselves because they warmed their brains.
In the case of humans, the problem may be that their brains are much larger, so it is difficult to target a specific area of the brain with the same degree of efficiency. However, if successful, it opens up very important opportunities not only for space research, but also for keeping alive the wounded or sick who cannot receive immediate care.