Saturday, April 23, 2005

Slowing the Clock

Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center recently reported that they can induce hibernation in mice, described in an article in the April 22 issue of Science. By exposing these mice to 80 ppm hydrogen sulfide (H2S) a 50% reduction of metabolic rate was observed within 5 minutes. If they left the mice in this environment for 6 hours, the rates dropped by 90%, and their body temperature dropped to just above ambient temperatures. Importantly, this hibernation is reversible: remove the mice from the hydrogen sulfide environment, they wake back up like nothing happened. The press release on this discovery mentions a number of potential applications including trauma and cancer treatment, and of course you're thinking about using it to sleep on your upcoming trip to Mars. It could be years before they test this on humans, because hydrogen sulfide is toxic in higher concentrations, but this could serve as a great tool to study hibernation in smaller mammals.


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