A leading scientist has suggested that placing humans into a state of hibernation could be a powerful new tool for fighting cancer, in particular terminal cancers.
Professor Marco Durante, from the Trento Institute in Italy, has suggested that if humans could be successfully placed into a hibernation state then it would stop the cancer in its tracks.
In addition it would also make radiotherapy far more effective as inactive tissue responds better to this form of treatment.
Speaking to the BBC World Service Professor Durante said: “The main problem was that humans don’t go into hibernation of course, bears go into hibernation, squirrels go into hibernation but humans don’t.”
“However recently it has been discovered that it is possible to induce a state which is similar to hibernation called synthetic torpor.”
Professor Durante went on to explain that this form of artificially induced hibernation had been successfully carried out on rats calling the results from the tests “very promising”.
What Professor Durante and his colleagues would then like to do is test this artificial hibernation on humans.
“If you put an animal in hibernation it is more radio resistant,” explains Durante, “Lets say you have a patient who is in the 4th stage with many metastases, you cannot use radiotherapy because there are so many metastases that the normal tissue will be completely burned.”
“But now if you go into hibernation this metastases stop and the normal tissue is more resistant so now you can increase the dose of the normal tissue, and you can actually destroy these metastases while the patient is in hibernation using radiotherapy, when the patient wakes up he will be cured.”
Professor Durante first presented his ideas at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston on the 19 February where he outlined further what his vision would be for the experimental new treatment.
It’s a bold vision but one that’s still a long way from being a reality. So far examples of humans surviving extremely cold temperatures have been few and far between and hardly scientific.
That being said, Professor Durante is hopeful that the process could be perfected to the degree that it can be tested on humans within the next five to ten years.