Firing ultrasound signals into rodent brains puts them in a torpor-like state. Scientists are wondering if it could be used on humans.
Scientists have blasted the brains of mice and rats with ultrasound to knock them into a hibernation-like state, and the researchers say the technique could one day be used on injured humans in critical care or on astronauts taking long-haul spaceflights.
The first-of-its-kind method — which works by firing ultrasound at a region of the brain responsible for controlling metabolism and body temperature — reduced the rodents' average body temperatures by up to 6.25 degrees Fahrenheit (3.5 degrees Celsius) while also slowing down their heart rates and reducing their oxygen consumption.
The results of the animal study could provide researchers with some clues for how hibernation-like states, or torpor, could be safely and non-invasively induced in humans. The researchers published their findings Thursday (May 25) in the journal Nature Metabolism.
"If successfully demonstrated in humans, this technology holds significant potential for medical applications, particularly in life-threatening conditions such as stroke and heart attacks," lead study author Hong Chen, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, told Live Science. "Inducing a torpor-like state in these patients might extend the treatment window and enhance their chances of survival," she said.