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From squirrels the secrets of hibernation for future space travel

2023-02-04T09:12:47.944Z


The connection may seem incredible, but the impetus for space exploration of the future comes precisely from squirrels, in particular those who hibernate: they are, in fact, the ones who are revealing the secrets of hibernation, which could help astronauts in long-term, but which also paves the way for very innovative medical therapies, for example for patients who have suffered a heart attack or stroke (ANSA)


The connection may seem incredible, but the impetus for space exploration of the future comes precisely from squirrels, in particular those who hibernate: they are, in fact, the ones who are revealing the secrets of hibernation, which could help astronauts in long-lasting, but which also paves the way for very innovative medical therapies, for example for patients who have suffered a heart attack or stroke.

The progress in this field comes from the Alaska Space Grant Consortium program, funded by NASA and conducted in Alaska, where researchers led by Kelly Drew are studying the Arctic ground squirrels, among the most incredible animals when it comes to hibernation.



Arctic ground squirrels (Urocitellus parryii) hibernate for eight to nine months a year without eating, entering a real state of hibernation that drops their body temperature even down to about -3 degrees.

Despite this, these animals manage to avoid the side effects usually associated with such an extreme slowdown in metabolism, such as frostbite, muscle loss and reduced bone density: precisely what astronauts face when they find themselves for prolonged periods in zero gravity.



Researchers are now trying to understand the mechanisms behind this extraordinary ability, which appears to involve the recycling of nutrients within the body, to be applied in other areas as well.

From space explorations, also helping to deal with the so-called 'astronaut fever' (which raises the body temperature of those in space by one degree), up to applications in the medical field: for example, patients affected by stroke or heart attack they could be put into a state of hibernation while waiting to be taken to hospital, a process that could significantly improve treatment outcomes.

Source: ansa

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