Science Fiction has imagined and perhaps elevated Hypersleep as an answer to many of our trouble advancing as a species. Putting the human body in suspended animation to ‘time travel’ to the future, extend our lives, or even make sure we make the long journey to Mars and planets further afield safely and healthily.

While 2020 has been throwing throwing asteroid sized curve balls at us all year, neuroscientists at Harvard have been working hard, and have made an all time first break though that could mean that hypersleep as a prospect could be developed sooner than we expect.

Up until now, the neurons that activated hibernation within animals were unknown. Scientists didn’t understand which neural pathways activated this state let alone be able to synthetically activate them ourselves. But in research published this week by the neuroscientists at Harvard shows they successfully managed to put mice into hibernation and bring them safely out of the process by blocking certain neurons, finally establishing not only the neurons that activate this process, but synthetically mimicking it. To put this into context, mice do not hibernate naturally.

The imagination runs wild when we think about the potential of hibernation-like states in humans. Could we really extend lifespan? Is this the way to send people to Mars?

Said study co-lead author Sinisa Hrvatin, instructor in neurobiology in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School

Of course this is very early days in the journey to Hypersleep. Mice have different biological makeup to humans to prevent hyperthermia in such a state. A temperature drop in a human of around 2 degrees centigrade in body temperature could onset hyperthermia, and if prolonged, kill us. So we have a long way to go until we can hypersleep for 10 years into the future. However this is a huge step forwards, Harvard’s neuroscientists have opened the door to suspended animation for us as a species, and perhaps within the next 50 years we could see some form of hypersleep on a journey to Mars…