Next Talk  - 20 June 2023 15:00 CEST  

Prof. Matteo Cerri M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Physiology, University of Bologna
Italian Institute of Technology (IIT)
National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN)


Be cool to get far: hibernation as a tool for the colonization of the Solar System

Abstract: The exploration of the Solar System faces many biological challenges for our species. The space environment is hostile to life, as radiation exposure during a long-term mission poses a severe health risk. Moreover, the danger of such an environment is further amplified by the adaptation of the human body to microgravity: muscle weakness, bone demineralization, sleep disturbances, circadian dysregulation, and genetic mutations are only a few factors that can compromise the survival of the astronauts, even after returning to Earth.
A source of inspiration to overcome these problems can be found in Nature. Hibernation is a state characterized by a drastic reduction in metabolic rate followed by a decrease in body temperature that allows mammals to survive for an extended period without resources. Interestingly, many of the physiological adaptations during hibernation could counteract the adverse effects of space; for instance, cells show enhanced radioprotection, muscle and bone maintain their structures, and the brain enters a state of deep energy saving.
Mimicking the hibernation features in humans would have a tremendous impact on the future of space exploration - and not just for humans; animals may also have to travel in space - and would also provide many positive technological “trickle-down” to the many fields of medicine, such as intensive care, surgery, and organs transplantation. A few steps toward such goals were taken in the past few years: now, a clear path for developing hibernation-inspired technologies lies ahead of us, and this ambitious goal is within our reach.


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