Sunday, April 24, 2005


Mice forced into hibernation by scientists

Every once in a while you run across something that makes you do a double-take, a kind of “HUH?” based on what you’ve always thought was science fiction. Generally, this reaction is to the sudden realization that something that has in fact been science fiction all your life is suddenly maybe more science than fiction.

The original article is from

Scientists for the first time have induced a state of hibernation in mice, a technique that could lead to new treatments for diseases in humans.

Lead researcher, Mark Roth, from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center said the achievement, is the first demonstration of "hibernation on demand" in a mammal.

In order to force the mice into hibernation, researchers exposed the creatures to high levels of hydrogen sulfide gas. By allowing the mice to breathe fresh air the condition was reversed without any signs of harm to the animals.

The team reports that within minutes of breathing the hydrogen sulfide, the mice stopped moving and lost consciousness. Their breathing dropped from a normal 120 breaths per minute to fewer than 10. Their body temperature fell from the normal 37 degrees Celsius to 11 degrees Celsius.

If the technique can be replicated in humans, Roth and colleagues believe it could first be used to treat people suffering from severe fevers of unknown origin.

Now, it’s a long way from gassing mice into unconsciousness to astronauts waking up dead because HAL shut off the life support systems to their “suspended animation” pods, but from the scant information provided, this also appears to be a long way from inducing a coma and all the risk that accompanies that procedure.

It will be interesting to follow where, if anywhere, this procedure leads in the future.

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