Hibernation-inducing brain circuit found in mice
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Mice and rats, which are non-hibernating animals, can enter a hibernation-like state by exciting specific neurons in their brains.
Many mammals and birds survive winter by slashing their energy consumptions through hibernation. Although mice don’t hibernate, injecting genetically modified mice with a certain compound has recently been shown to cause their body temperatures to drop by around 10 degrees Celsius for several hours.
Now, a team led by researchers at the University of Tsukuba has identified the neurons in the brain responsible for this hibernation-like state. They could cause mice and rats to enter the state by chemically or optically activating a set of neurons in the hypothalamus.
If a similar circuit exists in humans, it could one day be used to induce humans to enter a hibernation-state, which would be useful for long-distance space travel and for conveying seriously injured patients to hospitals.
- Nature 583, 109−114 (2020). doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2163-6