Astronauts in trance on a space journey, sick people "asleep" waiting for a transplant and some curious "hibernating" to see what the world will be like in a hundred years. Perhaps one day it will be possible according to some American scientists who have succeeded in "hibernating" some laboratory mice.
|There is sleep and sleep. This dormouse is in hibernation and its vital functions are almost completely suspended. Is it possible to induce the same kind of "sleep" in men?|
But first it is better to wait until the studies carried out on laboratory mice by researchers from the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle are confirmed.
The reversible suspension or slowing down of the main vital functions of a body, called "hibernation" - because so far it could only be achieved by freezing at -14 - 16 degrees of the body - for the first time it was made using a particular type of gas .
Stale air. Scientists have inhaled air mixed with hydrogen sulfide (H2S) to some mice in a room, after five minutes they have fallen into a state of apparent unconsciousness. Breathing has dropped from 120 breaths per minute to less than 10, the metabolism has slowed by 90 percent and the body temperature, which is normally around 37 degrees, has reached 11 degrees. After six hours of "sleep" the mice were awakened with plenty of fresh air. All functions returned to normal levels and, furthermore, some tests revealed that they were in excellent health, just like before the experiment. The freezing hibernation instead, currently in use for some surgical operations, cannot exceed the hour to avoid irreversible damage to the brain.
Future all to be built. Apart from a certain smell of rotten egg, typical of hydrogen sulphide, for mice the new form of "hibernation" seems to have no contraindications. But to evaluate the real possibility of an upcoming application on men it will still take a long time.
In the future the technique could be used to "sleep" cancer patients and thus subject them to massive doses of radiation, without damaging the tissues. While entranced astronauts could travel for years on their ships, without the need for food, to reach unknown and distant planets like Jupiter and Saturn.
(News updated April 22, 2005)