April 24, 2005

Hydrogen sulfide, hibernating mice, and the sleep of Epimenides

Three unrelated bits of information which -if combined- would make quite a good story.


Epimenides was a Cretan seer who is said to have slept in a cave for fifty-seven years. According to Diogenes Laertius:
He was sent by his father to the countryside to look for a sheep, and around noon he went to sleep in a cave, and he slept for fifty-seven years. He awoke after fifty seven years and started looking for the sheep, imagining that he had slept only for a short while.

Bad Air

Naturally occurring gases found in caves are; carbon dioxide (CO2), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), methane (CH4), nitrogen (N2), nitrogen oxides (NO) (NO2), and radon, Rn @ wt (C12) 222 or (O16) 222 @ no 86. [...] Hydrogen sulfide, (H2S)-- -is colorless, heavier then air, toxic and smells like rotten eggs at low concentrations. At high concentrations the sense of smell is deadened, and serious problems will result. Hydrogen sulfide can form from ground water and sulfides. If the slightest smell of rotten eggs is detected, leave immediately.


Science, Vol 308, Issue 5721, 518 , 22 April 2005

H2S Induces a Suspended Animation–Like State in Mice

Eric Blackstone et al.

Mammals normally maintain their core body temperature (CBT) despite changes in environmental temperature. Exceptions to this norm include suspended animation–like states such as hibernation, torpor, and estivation. These states are all characterized by marked decreases in metabolic rate, followed by a loss of homeothermic control in which the animal's CBT approaches that of the environment. We report that hydrogen sulfide can induce a suspended animation-like state in a nonhibernating species, the house mouse (Mus musculus). This state is readily reversible and does not appear to harm the animal. This suggests the possibility of inducing suspended animation-like states for medical applications.


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