Astronauts could hibernate like squirrels in space travel

Inspenet, 15 febrero 2023

Scientists from the US space agency (NASA, National Aeronautics and Space Administration) funded research to study the hibernation mechanisms of squirrels, in order to help in future space explorations.

Arctic squirrels have a particularly deep hibernation. These rodents, when hibernating, burn almost no energy and do not lose muscle mass, in addition to suspending many of their vital functions. This could be useful for astronauts “on long-term missions” and doctors to treat patients who after a stroke or heart attack need to be in “half-life” for therapies.

At the forefront in this field is the Alaska Space Grant Consortium program, financed by NASA and carried out in the cold regions of the American state.

There, scientists are studying Arctic ground squirrels, some of the most “special” animals when it comes to hibernation. Specimens of this type, in fact, hibernate for a good eight to nine months a year without eating, entering a true state of hibernation that causes their body temperature to drop to as low as 3 degrees below zero.

These squirrels have no side effects when coming out of hibernation as they slow down their metabolism and this could be useful for astronauts who are in the absence of gravity for prolonged periods.

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Photo: ShutterStock

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