April 22nd, 2005 | researchmaterial
If a similar response could be triggered in humans, there would be major healthcare benefits and the futuristic idea of putting astronauts into suspended animation on long-haul space flights could move a step closer to reality.
The mice were induced to fall into their deep sleep after being exposed to hydrogen sulphide – the gas which gives rotten eggs and stink bombs their characteristic foul odour. The animals later revived in ordinary air.
Mark Roth, head of the team which pioneered the procedure at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, US, explains that hydrogen sulphide all but shuts down the bodyâ€™s usual demand for the oxygen it needs to keep cells ticking over. Usually, cells denied oxygen – after a heart attack or stroke, for example – die quickly. But hydrogen sulphide instead sends cells into a state of dormancy…