Scientists are Able to Trigger a Hibernation Like State in Rats

Researchers have been able to trigger a hibernation like state in rats. If this is done for humans then it would be useful as a tool for more efficient space travel and as a tool for doctors.

Hibernating mammals actively lower their body temperature to reduce energy expenditure when facing food scarcity. This ability to induce a hypometabolic state has many potential medical benefits.

A hypothalamic neuronal circuit in rodents induces a long-lasting hypothermic and hypometabolic state similar to hibernation. In this state, although body temperature and levels of oxygen consumption are kept very low, the ability to regulate metabolism still remains functional, as in hibernation. There was no obvious damage to tissues and organs or abnormalities in behavior after recovery from this state.

Two research groups had markers in the brains of rats which they used to identify the neurons that triggered topor. They then just activated those neurons to turn on the topor state.

Topor is a weaker version of suspended animation. However it is twice as efficient as sleeping or resting.

The Topor state can reduce the crew consumables by about half and the ship could 40-70% smaller. A research group studied Topor for NASA.

With enough compaction of the crew space capsule it could be possible to go to Mars in a non-Holmann transfer orbit.

54 thoughts on “Scientists are Able to Trigger a Hibernation Like State in Rats”

  1. Ah, I see where you are coming from now.

    (I was just kidding about the movies. I mean they DO do it just so we can see Sigourney Weaver in her undies, but I figured you had a more serious line of logic.)

  2. Nothing to do with sleep chambers in movies. I think it means that these energy conservation strategies are less likely to be able to be awakened, because without fur there would be no control on heat loss when an organism cools. There was instead an overwhelming priority to be able to cool. It is like a hill that gets more steep as you roll down. Fur moderates rapid temperature change. The body is very vulnerable because the enzymes are not working right. The body can’t just say “Hey, that is cold enough. Add so heat so we are not damaged”, like it used to be able to do when the enzymes worked well. That suggests that if we ever had this feature it is long broken because it can’t have worked anytime recently. And as with anything genetic, it becomes broken if it is not used in just a few thousands of years or tens of thousands of years. Consider Vitamin C. Very few animals don’t make vitamin C. Our ancestors at some point always got enough vitamin C from their environment, so when the gene broke because of mutation, it did not lead to less reproductive success. It was instead a slight gain in efficiency because it was one less enzyme that had to be made. Before long, no ancestor made it. Result: “During the Age of Exploration (between 1500 and 1800), it has been estimated that scurvy killed at least two million sailors.”, And people still die of scurvy. Mostly elderly where no one bothered to check for that. Or they just hate seeing doctors…so they didn’t.

  3. Use it for prisons.

    Hook it up to a VR matrix style immersion system and we can get rid of trouble makers for decades at a time at minimal cost.

  4. I’m not sure what fur coats have to do with it??
    We can wear clothes if we get cold.
    Suspended animation in movies is only done nude because it’s a good excuse to get the lead actresses’ gear off.

  5. You still have one bathroom whether it is in use or not, Food prep area whether it is in use or not. Execersise equipment whether in use or not… Anyone awake means you need all the stuff.

    But you only need one bathroom if only a handful of people are awake at any time, rather than several bathrooms. You only need a single person food prep area instead of a large kitchen. You only need one squat rack in the gym area. You do save a lot of stuff with 5 active people instead of 100.

  6. I hope someting like this come to reality, but not for space. I think this could help people in hospitals, to do a long treatment withouth seeing . Ending the anxiety and many other troubles. And it should come with a “slime” bed too.

  7. The last one I read had the problem of the suspension tank expert deliberately sabotaging the tanks.
    So that he would wake up in mid flight, and then waking the most attractive woman. Tells her a tale of being alone due to computer glitches, but what can we do, here, alone, together…
    Consoling each other for a year till he gets bored, then killing her off and waking the next woman.

    Mind you, the second woman he woke up pulled the same trick on him.

  8. So Lemurs that hibernate naturally half a year live for about 28 years which is 14 years non hibernating time while Lemurs that don’t live for 18 years non hibernating time. 14 years of hibernating time shorten non hibernating time by 4 years and 4:14 is the rate of aging during hibernation relative to normal. This very rough estimate that doesn’t inform much about decades and centuries of artificial hibernation for a specie that does not do it naturally of course. There are better way than long duration hibernation space travel.
    Expertise does not override common sense and insight, many times it can become an obstacle, sorry, no apologies.

  9. I did not say they had to have as little hair as us, just no fur coat. If you can see skin under a bit of fuzz, that is close enough. Chimps and gorillas are close enough.
    As far as pigs, Babirusa are wild and hairless. There are hippos, rhinos, elephants, cetaceans (whales, dolphins, porpoises), manatees, dugongs, and walruses.
    The Naked mole-rats are unusual as you note…effectively cold blooded…so they don’t need hair.

  10. There seems to be a barrier that most can’t cross. It is the idea that the dead can’t be resurrected. There isn’t an physical reason why not. As long as the body is preserved in some manner it should be possible to resurrect a person. So, don’t put them to sleep, but put them to sleep. And resurrect them when you arrive at the destination.

  11. At the same time, ordinary people will have the equivalent of the luxuries of the rich today.
    You are right though. No guarantees currencies won’t go under. Even gold may be near worthless. Someone just needs to invent easy quick mater transmutation, and gold is worth the same as iron. Diamonds are already dubious, as they can make them. Maybe land? Say a REIT that actually only invests in land and does not do crazy borrowing schemes. But governments change, and sometimes they seize the land. I think collectibles are very dubious, as scanning technology and 3D printing will be so good you will not be able to tell original from fakes. And people may not even care if they have the real thing or the fake, if they are indistinguishable. They may even look down on people who care.
    Even if you guess right…maybe have a few ancient Roman gold coins in your pocket…there is no guarantee that someone will not have already robbed you in your sleep a hundred years before you will awaken or take it as you awake. They say “gold coins? What gold coins?”
    The best way to take care of what is yours is to be awake and informed.
    Gold coins surgically implanted?

  12. Well, I think it is safe to say that if this is tested in humans, it will first be done on earth, then in orbit, before even considering using it for interplanetary travel.

  13. Aren’t there very few terrestrial mammals with as little hair as humans have? Pigs maybe, but their wild forebears are hairier.

    Naked mole-rats are hairless and have a hibernation-like state. But they are very unusual in other ways (a eusocial mammalian species).

  14. Actually, that is a lousy way. It would be very slow. Better would just be cycling them from sleep to unconsciousness back to sleep. Wake them for 5 minutes so they can use the toilet and drink some water. Then back to sleep again. When they are unconscious, you can use electrical stimulation to exercise their muscles. Maybe a cold bath for 5 hours a day as well. That would burn a lot of calories.

  15. No. You still have one bathroom whether it is in use or not, Food prep area whether it is in use or not. Execersise equipment whether in use or not… Anyone awake means you need all the stuff.
    Oxygen? That is regenerated. Water? That is Recycled as well. That just means food. But food can be regenerated as well. Don’t need to bring 2-4 years of food, you grow more. Energy for all this? Solar or nuclear.
    You can bring along 50 gallons of olive oil in case something goes wrong and there is a calorie deficit. And you need decent ship volume.

  16. A hibernator can spend months lying on its back, then wake up, stretch, and go find something to eat.

    A (non-hibernating) human in hospital bed rest for two weeks will find that he cannot walk when allowed up, and will require physical therapy.

    So yes, you are completely correct. Bed rest is like microgravity, but hibernation is not like bed rest due to the reduced metabolism.

  17. They do live longer but not because the aging process is slowed, so for humans it means nothing, idiots.

    “Past observations also suggested hibernating animals live longer, but the reason was generally thought to be that they don’t have to compete for food or struggle with the harsh temperatures of winter, as their non-hibernating relatives do.
    For example, a non-hibernating rodent that weighs about 4 ounces (100 grams) — say, a medium-size rat — has a 17 percent chance of surviving the year, lives a maximum of 3.9 years and is able to have up to 14 offspring every year. A hibernating rodent of the same weight has a 50 percent chance of surviving each year, and therefore the maximum life span for its species is substantially longer: 5.6 years. However, it has about half the offspring each year, around eight.”,on%20the%20body's%20fat%20stores.

  18. Yeah, what was it Heinlein said? Oh, yeah: “$100 placed at 7 percent interest compounded quarterly for 200 years will increase to more than $100,000,000 — by which time it will be worth nothing.”

  19. What MIchael K said. Plus you only wake up one or two people at a time, until the end of the trip, so you don’t have ‘elbow in the face’

  20. One way time travel!

    Heinlein and others have written about the idea of hibernating yourself for several or many years while your investments grow. You wake up rich in the future. You get to live in 2100, but you never see your family again.

    Sounds nutty, but is probably a better business model than sending people to die on Mars.

  21. Now… THIS would enable the 100 people per trip to Mars SpaceX proposal, on 1000 m³ on a 6 months long trip.

    Just have 20 people awake at the same time at most. Maybe even less. Only 10. 5 days awaken.

    After 50 days, the cycle re-starts.

    If 50 days is too much, reduce to 2 days. Then the torpor state of each crew would be 20 days.

  22. If there’s a rotation with 10-14 torpor crew per each active, that still takes ~10 times less supplies and facilities than if all of them were active (give or take whatever supplies the torpor crew still needs).

  23. I would guess 3-4 active crew is optimal for psychological and maintenance needs. So roughly speaking, 10-14 in induced torpor and 1-2 active per group, 2-4 groups. Total ~20-60 crew. Each group rotates such that you get 9-14 torpor days, 1-2 active days.

    Say if there are 14 in torpor, 1 active, the each day the next one in line wakes up, and the previous guy goes to sleep in his place. After 14 days, that’ll complete a rotation back to the 1st bunk.

    The active days, are as you say for showers, exercise, recreation. But also for routine maintenance and mental exercises. Solving puzzles or something – whatever the brain scientist find is most effective. And the torpor days are in a rotating section like in the picture above. If there’s an even number of groups, they can counter-rotate.

    If the sleep to wake ratio is around 12, that comes out as about 1 month of active time per year of transit.

  24. To colonize other planet systems, I would use an automatic probe with a population bomb (the plan B at Interstellar).

    You send a completely robotic spaceship with a few thousands frozen embryos. At arrival, the spaceship acts as an space station and unfreezes a dozen embryos, once they grow up the real colonization can start.

    We would need a fusion rocket to send the spaceship at some fraction of the speed of light, artificial wombs (it doesn’t seem so far fetched), and an AI advanced enough to raise a dozen of children (luckily this is a field where we are advancing very well). 

    Looks like something we should be able to do in a century.

  25. Why do we need the spaceship without gravity ?, what can be done better without gravity ?.

    I would still send two spaceships, but only to join them with a tether and make them rotate each other, so we don’t need specially large spaceships to create the artificial gravity, a couple of Starthips themselves would do.

  26. Does anybody remember that article on OpenWater’s deep brain optical imager/stimulator? Seems relevant, now that they’re inducing torpor neurologically.

  27. In hibernating rodents it does prevent aging. There are some natural hibernators (squirrels, in this case) that exist across a range of environments with greater and lesser winters, so they can hibernate, or not, or hibernate for a short time. An experiment was done with two cohorts, one that hibernated for a significant fraction of the year through their entire lives, and another with almost none. And the hibernating cohort lived longer by almost the exact number of months that they spent hibernating.

    Of course, small mammals have a deeper metabolic suppression than large mammalian hibernators, so your mileage may vary depending on exactly how deep you can get the torpor.

  28. Is it possible that slowed metabolism would also slow bone density loss and muscle atrophy?

  29. While hibernation could reduce food, air, and water requirements, it is similar to microgravity in its deleterious effects on the human body. So hibernation really doesn’t solve the problem of interplanetary travel, only the production of artificial gravity through rotation will do that.

  30. There are likely positives and negatives in regards to health and longevity. In a sense you are increasing radiation. Our bodies can repair damage at a rate. But with everything reduced, those repair process will be dramatically slowed relative to the rate of incoming radiation. Though, if you are in one place, the shielding can be much higher there. But the extra mass still will offset advantages. The positives are that there are less damaging internal activities. But our bodies are not designed to operate at low temperature. Our enzymes are going to have very low rates of activity. That may hinder the assumed advantages of lower respiration. Personally, I think this is a bridge too far…without genetic modification or nanites the low enzyme activities within cells we permit too much damage. Small animals are not large animals with low surface area to volume ratios. The fact that we are mostly hairless speaks volumes. We are like the rhinos, pigs, and elephants…not little chipmunks. We are not designed for hibernation. But like I said…genetic modification/nanites. We have no idea what the limits of those technologies are, but I would bet those are easily capable of achieving the low temperature and all its advantages and without even having to be asleep.

  31. We just need faster transport. Or make conditions much better than the ISS. You want part of the time in artificial gravity. That should be sleep time, bathroom stuff, maybe eating. And there should be good activities like spacewalks between ships. There should be a convoy.

  32. I think there is nothing wrong with having a decent sized spaceship. If fact, I would send at least 2 large spacecraft. One with artificial gravity and one without. And Astronauts can go between them. One would be your farm where you grow food. They would be maybe half a mile apart. You lightly jump conserving propellant and you get to the other ship 5 minutes later maybe with a modest correction. And they could have a small third ship to rescue any bozo with bad aim. Something like the pod in 2001.
    Size is not what makes stuff expensive. It is foot-dragging, and 1,000+ contractors.
    For travel to the Moon I would not go crazy like this because it is just a few days, but anywhere else is going to take a long time. And I would shoot for much better conditions than we have on the ISS. Sleep, eat, toilet, shower all with gravity…but plenty of fun time without.
    And, of course, all of this stuff does not have to touchdown on Mars.

  33. The context was for travel to Mars or other planets, asteroids or what have you. That takes time. And the point was that you can get away with less space and amenities like exercise equipment, a bathroom, food prep areas, etc. If you have everyone wake up they are going to be in a spaceship without any amenities unless you are going to float around with a tube up your… and keep the IV in your groin…while you eat, exercise and spongebathe each other, and elbow each other in the face repeatedly while trying to move like worms in a can.

  34. But I don’t think that Hibernation prevents aging. So for space travel to other planetary systems even at a big fraction of the speed of light hibernation will mean very little.
    Once we understand that alien space ships in the best cases are actually constructs of group consciousness used to aid in group interdimenational teleportation everything will change.
    Of course, consciously, we are far from that.

  35. ‘ not bathing for years’
    Why years? My understanding is that bears come out of torpor several times during the winter. If this works why couldn’t people be in torpor for a few weeks then wake up for a few days to exercise bath eat etc. before going back into torpor for another few weeks.
    Oops I see GoatGuy anticipated my point

  36. Probably not.

    Normal sleep is a pretty active period for the brain, with valleys of slightly reduced activity. So it’s working even if it’s not connected solving problems in the real world.

    If this torpor depresses neural activity, it would be closer to be anesthetized. But I might be wrong and some dream activity remains.

    After all, even comatose patients report having dream like experiences from time to time.

  37. You can’t guarantee that damage will not happen as a result of disuse, radiation, infection at the interfaces of the system like catheters and such. Or even skin infections because they are not bathing for years. Also, benign microbes at our normal operating temperature might not be so benign at lower temperatures. Amphibians and reptiles are besieged with fungus. And if you simulate gravity you will also get bedsores. They could all have very highly inflamed skin and have lost all their hair months before landing. Their teeth could have rotted out of their heads, even rotting their jaws. They could all be blind or have very hazy vision from the radiation, as high energy photons will denature the protein in the lens and cornea like egg white on a hot stove if allowed to.
    The only way is to have one person awake to get everyone sponge baths, keep their connections clean, brush their teeth, take care of any infections, etc. And if they are going to be there, they are going to need all those things that take space in the spaceship. I suppose it is possible that they could be maintained by a remote/semi-autonomous arm or arms operated from Earth. Then you will have to hope the system can’t be hacked or the videos get out. If I were an astronaut I would not trust NASA. They would release the footage 40 or 50 years later under some national directive or whatever. “Hey look everybody while this robot sticks a tube up this guy’s…”

  38. It feels like some progress is being made. Personally, I kind of doubt that humans are ‘built’ for 2 to 3 year (each way!) cycles from Terra to Mars and back.  Even one-way feels discouragingly long.  

    I think the concern is that there may well be permanent mental or physical degradation due, in addition to that incurred by simply being in a radiation-bombarded space capsule, due to the imposition of the torpor regime itself, for months on end. When brain function is induced to near-zero levels, all sorts of medium-to-long term memory issues start arising, I have heard.

    So maybe like old 1960s science fiction, the torpor cycles are 10 days on, 1 day off to modestly recover, eat something, innervate the senses, take a shower, and all that … and back to another 10 under, 1 up cycle. Keeps the mind at least somewhat ticking.  

    ⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅

  39. If they are unconscious, they would not dream or feel the passage of time. Anyone knocked out for surgery can confirm this. You are out, and the next thing you know you are waking up. And they probably have to be unconscious, or they are going to go crazy.

  40. I doubt this will be popular for space travel. There is always this chronic problem with lethal xenomorphs running around in spaceships when the crew sleeps. Much better to die with your eyes open.

  41. Would this have life extension impacts? Or is this just good so the crew doesn’t starve or go crazy? Probably needs further research to answer, but those are my primary questions.

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