TOKYO, June 11 (Xinhua) -- A team of Japanese scientific researchers said Thursday they have succeeded in artificially inducing a hibernation-like state in rodents by stimulating nerve cells.
The new research result was announced in the online edition of the scientific journal Nature by the University of Tsukuba and Riken, a state-run research institute.
The experiment suggests benefits for human medical applications and deep space exploration which requires long flights with low oxygen levels, according to the scientists.
Mice and rats do not have hibernation, which is a state that some mammals actively lower their body temperature to conserve energy during winter months to survive food scarcity.
Studies in the past had indicated that the central nervous system was involved, but it was unclear how the exact mechanism works.
The research revealed that when lab mice's nerve cells dubbed "Q neurons" in the hypothalamus were artificially stimulated with drugs, their usual body temperature of about 37 degrees Centigrade decreased to 24 degrees Centigrade, with their oxygen consumption cut to 10 to 20 percent of the normal level.
"The findings will advance research on human hibernation," said Takeshi Sakurai, a professor at the University of Tsukuba who participated in the study.
The research team said there is a high possibility that humans have Q neurons which, if selectively manipulated, could be used to induce synthetic hibernation. Enditem