Science and Technology

The stilling effect

| Updated on: Nov 07, 2021
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Like some mammals such as polar bear, can humans hibernate, too?

Indian legends have it that rishis of yore lived hundreds of years simply by sitting under a tree and meditating. They were said to control their body metabolism, reducing all activities (such as heartbeat), and living without food and on very little oxygen. Well, such hibernation is common enough among animals. Polar bears, for instance, bury themselves in snow and live in this condition for months.

But can humans be ‘taught’ or ‘induced’ to hibernate medically? Scientists at the University of Tsukuba, in Japan, think it is possible. In an experiment (reported in Science Illustrated ) they made mice hibernate by activating cells known as Q neurons in the hypothalamus. The body temperature of the mice fell 10 degrees Centigrade, cardiac rhythm and breathing slowed — for over 48 hours — without any apparent harm to the animals.

The scientists think it is possible to make all mammals — including humans — hibernate.

They believe that astronauts and people with breathing difficulty could be helped by induced hibernation. In the deep future, this might well be a way to increase the span of human lives — who knows?

Published on November 07, 2021

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