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A neuroscientific study in mice suggests a path to interrupted animation

A new study from neuroscientists at Harvard Medical School reveals which parts of the brain can be activated in mice to induce a state of torpor, or sleep-like behavior – a revelation that has potentially interesting implications for how humans can lead to turned off animation to do anything from to treat diseases to hibernation during interstellar spaceflight.

The study, which was reported in the scientific journal Nature on June 11, revealed that a group of neurons in the hypothalamus of mice controls resting behavior within the rodent. Because mice are in many ways similar to human beings, the study can help researchers learn how to induce sleep-like behavior in humans – a development that would be very helpful in treating medical conditions by putting affected individuals in interrupted animation until they can be treated. Long as a mainstay in science fiction, the concept of turned off animation appears in many films about long-term interstellar space travel, such as “Alien”

; or “Passengers”.

“Here we show that entry into mouse torches, a fasting-induced condition with a greatly reduced metabolism and a body temperature as low as 20 degrees [Celsius], regulated by neurons in the medial and lateral preoptic area of ​​the hypothalamus, “the authors wrote.” We show that restimulation of neurons that were activated during a previous onset of torpor is sufficient to initiate key functions in torpor, even in mice that are not calorically restricted. “

Sinisa Hrvatin, co-author of the study and an instructor in neurobiology at the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School, told the university’s press website that she is very excited about the possible consequences of the study.

“Imagination goes wild when we think about the potential for rest-like conditions in humans. Can we really extend life? Is this the way to send people to Mars?” Hrvatin explained. “To answer these questions, we first have to study the basic biology of animals’ turf and rest. We and others do this – it’s not science fiction.”

Another senior study author, Michael Greenberg, commented that “turned off animation in particular is a common theme in science fiction, and maybe our ability to cross the stars will one day depend on it.”

This is not the first study that can have consequences for turned off animation. Another study by researchers from the University of Tsukuba in Japan and published in the same issue of Nature, also identified the same group of neurons that played a role in hibernation. In November, Samuel Tisherman of the University of Maryland School of Medicine was able to place at least one human patient in suspended animation as part of an experiment on whether doctors could do the same and thus more easily treat traumatic injuries. The technique, called acute preservation and resuscitation (EPR), is designed to be performed for patients with acute traumas such as gunshot injuries or stab wounds and who have suffered cardiac arrest and lost more than half of their blood.

“Trauma patients who lose so much blood that the heart stops very rarely survive, even with blood transfusions and CPR,” Tisherman told the University of Maryland – Baltimore. “We have developed EPJ using hypothermia to reduce the body’s oxygen and blood flow needs to see if we can buy time to save these patients who are dying in front of us. We are currently looking at the safety and feasibility with the EPR cooling technology. the main goal is to show that we can do it and that it works. ”

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