Not just for winter any more

Scientists believe thay have found a way to induce hibernation in mammals. Slowing the metabolism and the body’s reliance on oxygen could help save accident victims, make complicated operations safer and reduce the risk of chemo- or radio-therapy.

And, of course, it ushers in that great sci-fi staple of deepsleep for stellar exploration.

Hydrogen sulphide is a type of chemical known as an oxygen mimetic. These compounds are similar to oxygen at the molecular level and so bind to many of the same receptors. As a result, they compete for and interfere with the body’s ability to use oxygen for energy production. Prof Roth believes that this interference with normal bodily functions is what caused the mice to hibernate.

“The cool thing about this gas we’re using, hydrogen sulphide, is that it isn’t something manufactured that we’re taking down from a shelf,” said Prof Roth. “It’s simply an agent that all of us make in our bodies all the time to buffer our metabolic flexibility. It’s what allows our core temperature to stay at 37C, regardless of whether we’re in Alaska or Tahiti.”

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