Slowing down body functions to induce hibernation-like state in human body can help in healing traumatic injuries and making space travel.
Hibernation is anatural phenomenon for many mammals excluding human beings. It a meansto avoid unfavorable weather conditions by slowing down the basal metabolism rate of the body. It means reduced utilization of energy, decreased heart rate and very low blood pressure. According to scientists, slowing down body metabolism by inducing hibernation like state in human beings can help them survive traumatic injuries and ischemic strokes.
Induced hibernation in space “Passengers”
It is also believed that induced hibernation can also be used as a way of increasing the longevity of life, especially during space travel. Sounds familiar?
The recently released sci-fi movie “Passengers” is actually based on this very concept. According to NASA,travelling to planets in the outer space will take a considerable amount of time. It is practically impossible for an astronaut to complete the journey in one life span. Induced hibernation can help increasing the longevity of astronauts and can provide an escape from the boredom during the long years of space travel.
Though such technology does not exist today in the real world, but research on its development is already underway. NASA has already granted the Innovative Advanced Concepts grant to a company named SpaceWorks to further develop the concept of induced hibernation for applications in space travel.
How exactly can this be done?
There are several ways which can be employed to slow down the basal metabolic rate of the human body. The most commonly known method includes therapeutic hypothermia, which can be achieved by slow intravenous infusion of cold saline.
Other methods to induce hibernation include the use ofphenothiazine drugs, and ethanol.
Induced hibernation as a therapy:
The biomedical applications of induced hibernation are immense. Basically it can provide the body an escape from the physical suffering and cerebral damage associated with ischemic strokes and fatal injuries. In the meanwhile the body can start healing itself and return to its normal state of functioning.
Induced hibernation can be achieved by pharmacological manipulation ofcentral autonomic thermoregulatory circuits by targeting the CNS thermoregulatory centers of the body. Clinical studies oninduced short term therapeutic hypothermia in patients suffering with cardiac arrest revealed that, the method can improve their prognosis and recovery. Additionally, the effects of the hypothermia can be reversed safely without any cardiovascular side effects.
Theoretically, it all sounds so simple and easy, but the same cannot be said when we actually go for hibernating a live human body. The technology responsible to inducing and reviving a human body from temporary induced hibernation is in its nascent stage. On top of everything the ethical issues involved in undertaking such a procedure is yet to be sorted out. Considering all these factors, it is expected thatfurther in depth research to address all these issues is required, before we actually implement the induced hibernation technology on a large scale.
Forreider, B., Pozivilko, D., Kawaji, Q., Geng, X., & Ding, Y. (2016).Hibernation-like neuroprotection in stroke by attenuating brain metabolic dysfunction. Progress in neurobiology.
Jinka, T. R., Combs, V. M., & Drew, K. L. (2015). Translating Drug-Induced Hibernation to Therapeutic Hypothermia. ACS chemical neuroscience, 6(6), 899-904.
Tupone, D., Cetas, J. S., & Morrison, S. F. (2016). Hibernation, Hypothermia and a Possible Therapeutic “Shifted Homeostasis” Induced by Central Activation of A1 Adenosine Receptor (A1AR). Nihon shinkeiseishinyakurigakuzasshi= Japanese journal of psychopharmacology, 36(2), 51.