By now, this Shelter in Place/Quarantine/Lock Down, whatever you want to call it, is driving most of us up the wall. Fewer and fewer of us are complying, which makes it even more frustrating for the rest of us, because at this rate we’re never going to flatten the curve. If we don’t ensure the health of the more vulnerable amongst us, none of us will ever truly be safe.
I wish I could just go to sleep and wake up when all of this is over with. I wish I could hibernate like a bear in winter, or even better, Æstivate, which is a kind of hibernation during the hot months. That would be awesome. But then, sleep is one of my favorite things in the world.
I was thinking about this when I stumbled across an article on one of my new favorite websites, Eurekalert. I’m learning so much from perusing all the science articles on this site. It helps me believe that we are making progress after all.
The article in question is entitled, “Hibernation in mice: Are humans next?” It describes a fascinating study that came out of the University of Tsukuba, in Japan.
As with all scientific inquiry, this study started with some questions. Why do some animals hibernate while others do not? Do all animals have the potential to hibernate?
When a creature hibernates, its metabolism slows down, its temperature drops, its heart beats more slowly, it breathes more weakly, and there is less brain activity. And yet, when they wake up, they’re still healthy, albeit thinner. (Another plus, in my opinion!)
Mice do not normally hibernate, but this study shows that if you activate a cell in their brains called the Q neurons, they would do so for several days. They were able to produce these results in rats as well, in spite of the fact that they don’t even normally go into a daily torpor as mice do.
The implications of this study are rather interesting. If humans could hibernate, this could ease their pain during emergency transport. It could do wonders for space travel, as the amount of food and oxygen would be reduced, and there would be psychological benefits of “sleeping” through long journeys.
But if I let my imagination run wild, I think of people taking “hibernation vacations” (you heard it here first) to lose weight, or during times of upheaval and great stress. Sign me the heck up, is all I’m saying.
I could also see how having a reduced need for oxygen would be a wonderful thing for COVID-19 patients, who are struggling for every breath they take. It very well might buy them time to let the virus run its course. I’m no doctor, but I’d say this is worth investigating. It certainly couldn’t be worse than injecting oneself with bleach. (Do NOT inject yourself with bleach!!!)
As long as human hibernation was a voluntary thing, it could be quite beneficial to mankind. I hope this study continues. I look forward to hearing more about it.
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