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HomeScienceUltrasound can trigger a hibernation-like state in mice and rats

Ultrasound can trigger a hibernation-like state in mice and rats

A standard dormouse in a state of torpor

Simon Phillpotts/Alamy

Zapping a part of the mind with targeted ultrasound can put mice in a hibernation-like state known as torpor for at the least 24 hours. The identical strategy also can induce the state in rats, which, in contrast to mice, don’t naturally enter torpor.

“That has enormous implications,” says Hong Chen at Washington College in St. Louis. “The considering is that, if we present that in animals that don’t usually enter the torpor state we are able to nonetheless induce an analogous phenomenon, perhaps we are able to scale up the expertise to bigger animals.”

If this may be carried out in folks, too, it might have medical makes use of amongst different issues. As an illustration, inducing torpor in individuals who have had strokes might purchase them time and assist restrict the injury, says Chen.

Many warm-blooded animals decrease their physique temperature and decelerate their metabolism to avoid wasting vitality, getting into torpor. Some bats and birds go into torpor at night time. Others, equivalent to mice, enter it solely when meals runs low. Hibernation entails prolonged durations of torpor interrupted by occasional returns to regular physique temperature.

In 2020, two groups independently found that stimulating a part of the hypothalamus within the brains of mice can induce torpor. Nevertheless, they used advanced strategies, together with genetic engineering, to activate this “mind change”.

Chen questioned if ultrasound may very well be used as a substitute. Her workforce has been growing a way known as targeted ultrasound for treating mind illnesses.

Chen’s workforce discovered {that a} 10-second pulse of ultrasound targeted on the mind change space in mice led to their physique temperature falling by round 3°C (5.4°F). The mice recovered utterly after 2 hours, however by delivering repeated pulses each time their physique temperature began to rise, it was potential to maintain the animals on this state for twenty-four hours with no signal of ailing results.

It is likely to be potential to take care of this state for for much longer, says Chen, however her workforce hasn’t but tried to do that.

Whereas the method additionally works in rats, their physique temperature solely fell by round 1.3°C (2.3°F).

“Though modest, that is vital as a result of rats are non-hibernators and, on this, nearer to people,” says Matteo Cerri on the College of Bologna in Italy, whose workforce has induced torpor in rats and pigs by chemically inhibiting part of the brainstem.

Reducing physique temperature with ultrasound may very well be helpful for medical functions, however interplanetary journey could require extra strong methods to suppress metabolism, says Cerri.

Precisely how the targeted ultrasound induces torpor isn’t clear, says Takeshi Sakurai on the College of Tsukuba in Japan, whose workforce was one of many two that found the hypothalamus change.

It is likely to be triggering this mind change, says Sakurai. “Nevertheless, there are additionally different teams of neurons within the close by area that play a job in thermoregulation, making it extra doubtless that also they are concerned.”

Chen thinks {that a} mixture of the native heating and bodily motion induced by the targeted ultrasound opens ion channels on neurons, activating them. However this stays to be established.

Any potential human makes use of are nonetheless far off, she says. “Security is an enormous concern.” Targeted ultrasound that’s too intense or that’s maintained for too lengthy can injury the mind, and her workforce needed to do a variety of experiments to work out a secure dose in a mouse.

However it’s solely possible to develop a helmet that would ship targeted ultrasound pulses to the equal a part of the human mind, she says.


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