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Lemurs may hold the key to human hibernation

Posted on Monday, 21 March, 2016 | Comment icon 9 comments

Could hibernation be used to help astronauts survive long voyages ? Image Credit: Rvb
Hibernating mammals like lemurs could play a role in helping mankind venture out on deep space missions.
The idea of using human hibernation - sometimes referred to as suspended animation - to help astronauts survive long trips through space is not a new one.

Back in the 1950s, NASA invested a significant amount of money in to biological research aimed at finding a way to put astronauts to sleep during long-haul voyages.

Not only would a hibernating crew require less food, water and oxygen but they would also be spared the psychological tedium and loneliness of spending years traveling through space.

"If we one day hope to visit another star system, even if we could travel at the speed of light, the journey would take years," said Ukranian neuroscientist Vladyslav Vyazovskiy.

"Being able to go into a state of long-term torpor would make such distances considerably less tedious for the astronauts and conserve vital resources."

The key to accomplishing this, Vyazovskiy believes, lies in understanding exactly how and why bears, lemurs and other creatures are able to hibernate for months at a time.

"The fact that large mammals such as bears and even primates, such as the fat-tailed dwarf lemur of Madagascar, can hibernate means that theoretically humans aren’t too big or energy-hungry to enter torpor," he said.

One possibility would be to induce hibernation in a human using freezing temperatures, but even if this could be achieved there would still exist a risk of brain or memory degradation.

"Research in animals such as bats shows that most memories are preserved even after many months in a state of almost complete neuronal depression," said Vyazovskiy.

Whether this advantage can be harnessed for use in humans however remains to be seen.

Source: Independent | Comments (9)

Tags: Lemur, Hibernation

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by pokingjoker on 21 March, 2016, 20:34
to be honest id be willing to bet this has been done already just not published.
Comment icon #2 Posted by BeastieRunner on 21 March, 2016, 23:53
I volunteer!
Comment icon #3 Posted by Gecks on 22 March, 2016, 1:40
I thought in space such as on the ISS astronauts had vigorous excersize regimes due to the lack of gravity?? Wouldnt it be a bad idea physically to send astronauts on a voyage of months and months while asleep? By the time you got to your destination I cant imagine you being in good shape
Comment icon #4 Posted by Misanthropic on 22 March, 2016, 1:45
It's only a matter of time, i suppose. We'll eventually figure out the intricies of it all and be zooming 'round space like we own the place.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 22 March, 2016, 1:46
Hibernation is more than just sleeping, it involves a massive lowering of metabolic rate. With the chemical processes of the body slowed down the processes which cause muscle and bone wasting should also be correspondingly slowed down.
Comment icon #6 Posted by Gecks on 22 March, 2016, 6:47
Thanks for clearing that up. On the other hand though animals still put on an amount of mass to be able to survive hibernation. Im assuming the body would need to be hooked up to some sort of drip?
Comment icon #7 Posted by paperdyer on 22 March, 2016, 16:10
Waspie, What about aging. That really doesn't slow as much as the other metabolic rates, does it?
Comment icon #8 Posted by ShadowBoy86x on 25 March, 2016, 13:39
Im for it as long as we dont need butt plugs like bears, burrrrr owwywwy pooping that out come wake up time

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