The Strategist

Human Hibernation Has Become A Popular Research Subject In Various Fields Of Studies

04/17/2015 - 12:02

Researchers, biologists, astronauts, and physicians are all attempting in their own fields to achieve the seemingly impossible feat of human hibernation. Eric Niiler brings together various works in these above mentioned fields to put forth their findings. – 15 April 2015 – According to, Eric Niiler writes in The Washington Post about whether human hibernation is an achievable feat or not.
There are many animals like bears, hedgehogs, squirrels and other smaller mammals who minimises their energy expenditure by going into an ‘energy saving mode’ called hibernation. So far, hibernation has been one of the ways through which many animals conserve their energy during winter, drought other times of times of calamities when food becomes scarce. Nevertheless, human beings, Homo sapiens, never hibernate for it is “an unnecessary and impossible goal” to them.
However, through various meticulous studies of the process and the usage of hibernations, scientists are now adapting it as a medical therapy. Meanwhile, they are hoping that sometimes in the future, hibernation could be a used for travelling the space. In the field of medical science, some doctors are prescribing hypothermia, whereby the body temperature gets reduced “by a few degrees for several days at a time”. This process helps in the treatment of traumatic injuries of brain and other severe diseases of this kind.
The exact reason for hypothermia being helpful in recovering brain injuries have not being found. Although, a anaesthesiology and neurology professor, Romergryko Geocadin, says:
“You actually lower the need for energy for the entire body. So you give it time to catch up.”
Studies and experiments are taking place to see if the human body temperature can be lowered for a prolonged period to keep it in a sleep-like state even for weeks altogether and eventually to revive the body without any side effect. The promising usage of this technology is for the astronauts, in the field of space travelling. The head of European Space Agency, Leopold Summerer says:
“We see the science has advanced enough to put some of the science fiction into the realm of science reality. It doesn’t mean we will have hibernating astronauts anytime soon, but we are learning from nature how to understand some of the things that happen to animals during hibernation, such as preventing bone loss or preventing muscle loss. This is already something that would be a great benefit for long-distance space flight.”
Presently, N.A.S.A. is conducting “preliminary” studies to gage the effects of torpor on the astronauts’ body in collaboration with medical monitoring systems. Moreover, biologists are also going through careful dissections to study the biochemical and neurological anatomies of animals that hibernate. Kelly Drew, a biochemist, says:
“We think that if we understand how they do it, we can replicate it in humans”.
At the Institute of “Arctic Biology”, Drew along with her co-workers, studying the hibernation process of “Arctic ground squirrel”, “believes” that they have discovered the molecule, “A1 adenosine receptor”, which is responsible reducing the body temperature of the Arctic ground squirrel. Although, the mechanism that triggers of the stimulation of the A1 adenosine receptors are still unknown.
Trials are being made to manufacture sage drugs that would stimulate the A1 adenosine receptors which will then be injected in the body of other “animals that do not normally hibernate” to induce them “to enter and stay in a state of torpor”.
Italian scientists, on the other hand, are about to launch a clinical trial wherein the body temperature of a pig will be lowered “by inhibiting a part of the hypothalamus that controls energy levels”, so that the effect of hypothermia can be induced.
Many researchers, like Cerri, who are into this line of research, want to take this experiment to the next level by implementing a medical dose to induce hypothermia in a healthy human body. But, the risk involved and the “ethical gulf” to be crossed, in case something goes wrong proves to be great barriers on this road. Although, Cerri, himself is ready to be a human volunteer for such tests.
Inducing the human body to go into the state of torpor for some period of time is as difficult as sending humans to colonise Mars. Yet, there are other scientists and researchers who argue contradictorily by saying that hibernation in a human body is not possible.