What To Do With Induced Hibernation?

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.

Comments

Hibernation has such a HUGE potential.

I can't wait to see the results from longer term hibernation, and hibernation in higher mammals.

hamster

Posted by: hamster at April 22nd, 2005 9:44 PM

I agree that these results need to be confirmed and replicated in larger mammals. But if it is possible to slow down metabolism to 8-10% of normal, one would expect at least that much slowing of aging processes. Maybe a lot more slowing, since the correspondence need not be strictly linear.

Persons who are dying of a disease which is likely to be curable within a decade might choose to hibernate for a decade, just in case. I can easily see persons in early stage Alzheimer's choosing to hibernate in hopes of a cure.

Or if the attenuation of aging processes is non-linear, if one year of hibernation equals one hour or one day of aging, healthy older persons might choose to sit out several decades in hopes of further advances in rejuvenation science.

The hibernation infrastructure would probably not be paid for by National Health Services or Medicare, since the financial burden on taxpayers is potentially infinite. The wealthy will probably pioneer this process along with venture capitalists.

Posted by: Sloeform at April 23rd, 2005 9:46 AM

I don't think you can necessarily assume that the rate of accumulation of all age-related or disease-induced damage is slowed by hibernation; I could imagine a case in which hibernation is slowing some processes but not others.

Posted by: Reason at April 23rd, 2005 11:47 AM

Yes, and that is why they do the actual research rather than sitting in coffeehouses philosophising all day. Because that is the only way to determine which is the case.

But the wise visionary will have a contingency matrix made out in advance, to minimize delays in acting upon opportunities.

Posted by: Sloeform at April 24th, 2005 7:40 AM

....The hibernation infrastructure would probably not be paid for by National Health Services or Medicare, since the financial burden on taxpayers is potentially infinite. The wealthy will probably pioneer this process along with venture capitalists.

If this pans out, this is a potential GOLDMINE, if its Marketed right.

I myself would be a customer, regardless of whether or not I had a terminal illness once I got to a certain age. If it has NO negative effects, I can even see this as a nightly therapy (ala a hydrogen sulfide chamber). Iv'e seen stranger things.

hamster

Posted by: hamster at April 25th, 2005 9:35 AM

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