Much of the currently funded research into healthy life extension - such as work on calorie restriction biochemistry and mimetics - is focused on manipulating metabolism. This is much akin to fine tuning an engine to get a better mean time to failure; not fixing the underlying problem so much as somewhat reducing the rate at which it causes damage. With that in mind, the healthy life extension community is currently pondering what to make of news that a hibernation state can be induced in mice:
Mark Roth, a biochemist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, and his colleagues tried exposing mice to air laced with relatively low concentrations of the gas: within minutes, the mice seemed to fall unconscious. Their core body temperature dropped by some 20°C, and their breathing slowed from about 120 breaths a minute to fewer than 10, the team reports in Science.
When re-exposed to clean air after six hours, the mice bounced back without any evident side-effects, says Roth. "This indicates that it's possible to decrease metabolic rate on demand," says Roth.
Aside from the obvious uses in surgery and a range of life threatening circumstances, what can be done with this discovery in the arena of extending healthy life spans? That's a good question, but it's worth noting that some folks feel that investigating the biochemistry of large hibernating mammals is very relevant to healthy life extension.