The zebrafish is a species of freshwater ray-finned fish of the cyprinid family – a model organism in developmental biology. Their form of hibernation, known as induced stupor (a state of decreased metabolic activity), can have a radioprotective effect.
Hibernation is a physiological condition in many species that protects them from harsh conditions such as lack of food and low ambient temperatures.
Hibernating humans can protect astronauts from the harsh conditions of space flight, which include issues such as radiation exposure, bone and muscle wasting, aging, and vascular problems. The researchers believe that if astronauts hibernate while traveling, these difficulties can be solved.
The research is published in the journal MDPI Cells.
Scientists exposed the zebrafish to radiation similar to a six-month trip to Mars. The researchers found that this radiation caused signs of oxidative stress, increased stress levels, and cell cycle arrest in zebrafish.
The researchers then numbed a second group of zebrafish, who were then exposed to the same dose of radiation and analyzed their gene expression patterns. The aim is to evaluate protective effects during an induced state of physical or mental inactivity.
The results showed that numbness lowers the metabolic rate in zebrafish and creates a radioprotective effect, protecting against the harmful effects of radiation.
Understanding how lower metabolic rates can provide protection from radiation exposure and help humans achieve this type of hibernation for space travelers and explorers.