This technology can “cut” the brains of mice using ultrasound


Future versions of this technology could be used to put astronauts to sleep on long space missions.

Many animals are grateful to get into a position laziness. In comparison, this position Similar to a television’s “stand-by” mode, in which a small current still maintains the most basic functions, such as reacting to the stimulation of a remote control, but does not consume anywhere near as much energy when it is in motion. In mammals, This state of torpor allows energy to be stored to survive the harsh conditions of winter or long seasons of water scarcity. Food. This saving is made possible by the fact that the animal’s basal metabolism decreases until it reaches a very low level. Theoretically, humans can also enter a kind of torpor, but the efforts made in the 60s, thinking about the future of the space race, did not show great progress in this regard.

How to put a mouse to sleep

At the University of Washington, Associate Professor Hong Chen has spent years studying the mechanisms by which organisms move into odors. After observing how the stimulation of certain neurons affects the regulation of temperature and metabolism, he developed a A non-invasive method of controlling this activity. A technology calledUltrasound induced artificial torpor” can be translated into Spanish “Ultrasonic induced artificial torpor”and contains A device that focuses ultrasound on the preoptic area of ​​the brain, which activates Neurons area. Activating these neurons in very specific cycles allows mice to be kept in a form of torpor for long periods of time.

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The device is based on a biological mechanism of action Activation of ion channels present on the surface of neurons sensitive to ultrasound. Channels called TRPM2 open when stimulated and allow certain ions to enter the neuron. sending a signal “We must enter rest” to other tissues in the body, such as the heart and brown adipose tissue. While the normal function of TRPM2 is still under debate, the hypothesis that it is related to the organism’s response to temperatures of 33 and 38°C has gained more strength.

In Dr. Chen’s words: “We have developed a controller to achieve long-term, stable hypothermia and hypometabolism using ultrasound. To do this, we set the desired body temperature below 34°C, which is thought to be key to the activation of mice’s natural torpor. An ultrasound-induced artificial torpor device maintained the mouse’s body temperature at 32.95°C for approximately 24 hours. [los ratones] returned to normal temperature when the ultrasound was turned off”.

Animals that don’t go to sleep

Now, while it’s very challenging to get an animal that sleeps normally throughout its life cycle to sleep, what happens if you use this technique on another animal that doesn’t normally use this technique? To find out, The researchers performed the same technique on mice that were not hibernating in the wild. By stimulating the preoptic area with ultrasound, they observed both skin temperature and The general temperature of the animal decreased by an average of 1°C. This decline is associated with the first steps of sleep, so the technology does what it promises.

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Future applications

It is still a new technology, therefore More studies are needed to transfer it to humans. The authors of the article highlight its potential use for patients in medical emergency situations Decreasing metabolism increases response time before irreversible health status is reached. The researchers also speculate on the possibility of using this technology for space travel, as the tober stage would help use less energy and, therefore, allow for longer durations of such flights.

In these cases, it is good to imagine the number of fields of study that are open, but always keep your feet on the ground. While it’s true that the device did work in mice, animals that don’t hibernate on a regular basis, This effect is by no means sufficient to suggest that it has put them to sleep. However, since it is a non-invasive method, there is potential for researchers Combine it with other practices to maximize its effects and explore new techniques to induce laziness.

Don’t get it:

  • A TV in stand-by mode continues to use power. The best way to avoid this consumption is to connect to a power strip or socket that has a switch to cut off the current.
  • It has been heard many times that the future of living forever is going cryogenically. The technique cannot be used on humans with current technologies, although the companies are confident that it can bring the recently dead back to life. Although this has been achieved in mice, the human body is much larger, so heat transfer is always much slower, causing the molecules to “freeze in time” and thus protect the tissue from damage.
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