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Rats induced into hibernation-like state

Injection of compound causes animals to slow heartbeat, lower body temperature

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2:10pm, September 4, 2013

Rats spent hours in a state of chilly suspended animation after researchers injected a compound into the animals in a cold room.  The animals’ heart rates slowed, brain activity became sluggish and body temperature plummeted.

The research joins a small number of studies that attempt to induce the metabolically lethargic state known as torpor in animals that can’t normally slow their metabolism. “It’s a breakthrough” in understanding aspects of torpor, says neuroscientist Kelly Drew of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Lowering the body temperature of a nonhibernating mammal is really hard, says Domenico Tupone of Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. As temperatures inside the body fall, several failsafe systems spring into action. Blood vessels near the skin squeeze tight to hold warmth in, the body starts to shiver and brown fat, a tissue that’s especially plentiful in newborns, starts to produce heat.

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