2
$\begingroup$

The type of hibernation shown in many movies such as Aliens seems to cause the body to be affected by the passage of time only a tiny bit over long periods of space travel. Muscle atrophy in particular seems non-existent.

In real life, if we don't use muscles for an extended period of time they weaken, and after any significant period of non-use, they become incapable of meaningful work. Several astronauts and cosmonauts have been in space for longer than 6 months and had to do copious amounts of exercise to stave off atrophy.

How can humans induce hibernation chemically to avoid muscle atrophy for a period of 6 months?

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site! Your question is a little vague, and primarily opinion based. We are not able to induce hibernation with the technology we have, or is within our grasp. In your universe you are inventing this tech. How it works is entirely up to you. Under normal circumstances, if a person is bed-ridden (in a coma, for example) for months they would certain suffer from various ailments and require therapy to recover. However, who's to say that your technology does not preserve the human body in perfect stasis, such that the patient suffers no ill effects? Only you get to decide that. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Mar 4 '16 at 15:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I hope this helps to explain why this question is not really suited to the Worldbuilding site. If you're unsure about whether a question is appropriate ask it in Meta first, or join chat and ask there. You will get good feedback and advice from the community. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Mar 4 '16 at 15:38
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think it's as vague as you imply. Obviously it can work any way I want it to. I'm trying to make it more realistic, which I thought was the purpose of this site. I think the real problem with the question is more of a medical question. What causes muscle atrophy. Not using the muscles explains why they don't grow, but why does NOT using them make them shrink instead of just staying the same. I'm assuming there is a biological process that causes this and I'm interested in knowing if putting someone into a chemically induced sleep is likely to slow that process. $\endgroup$ – ozone Mar 4 '16 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ I did do a search for the question, but I don't know what you mean by "ask it on Meta." How do I get to Meta? $\endgroup$ – ozone Mar 4 '16 at 16:08
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not implying anything - your question is very vague. If you don't tell us how your technology works we can't possibly answer. Anyone in a coma (medically induced, or due to injury) will have their muscles atrophy - and they will suffer pretty terrible effects in 6 months. That person will certainly not be ready to perform any physical tasks when they wake up. If your tech uses nannites to somehow place the body in stasis then little to no ill effects will occur. For the record you can't just "freeze" people - it kills us. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Mar 4 '16 at 16:10
2
$\begingroup$

In a story, it's usually just a trope to get the characters in place. So just gloss over it and the less said the better.

To make it more realistic, you will want one of 2 effects: either cryogenic temperature, or maintenance of the muscles by the sleep chamber. If the body is suspended whether by cold or nanotechnology or both, it will not be consuming energy and not atrophy in the normal way either.

If the body is consuming energy and running to preserve its tissues in the normal way, then yes it's essentially like a coma. The body will consume calories and need food and oxygen to stay alive, so what's the point of the special suspension? That is, id you can't suspend biological processes, what's the point? And the natural fall out from such suspension is that you don't have atrophy or aging in general.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your answer. I agree with you. I think I half figured this myself, but I just wanted to see if anyone knew of an effect that caused atrophy that WASN'T related to a biological process that would likely be effected by a chemically induced state of hibernation. But I agree. If all of these processes were not affected, why do it. Although it does present an interesting plot device to only slow SOME of the processes and not others, doesn't it. $\endgroup$ – ozone Mar 4 '16 at 16:21
0
$\begingroup$

Yes it would still be subject to atrophy. Ever had a cast for a broken arm/leg? when you don't use a limb/set of muscles for a long time, they lose mass. This is the same as long term(bed confined) patients of chronic diseases/coma patients.

This statement from an article from the US National Library of Medicine states that after 10 days, atrophy can be seen: (here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23948422)

It is recognized that muscle atrophy during prolonged (>10 days) disuse is >brought about primarily by declines in post-absorptive and post-prandial muscle >protein synthesis rates, without a clear contribution from changes in muscle >protein breakdown

If thats showing after 10 days... 6 months will have horrific effects.

EDIT: IF there was some sort of intravenous/nutritional input into the person, maintaining a sort of dietary equilibrium where muscles are not being broken down to move important nutrients to where its needed most, atrophy will still occur. The human body is very good at adapting to a situation. Thats why exercise needs to be pretty much consistent, or else you lose what you've gained within a week or two.

As the person is in 'hibernation' there won't be much movement so any anabolic enzymes (the little critters that help build/maintain muscle mass) will break down. Maybe any tech that you consider should include this as part of the process, but more information on the technology needs included. Best I can do :D

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Well said, as far as a cast is concerned, but whether this applies or not would depend on the technology, which the OP doesn't give us any details about. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Mar 4 '16 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ A person with a cast is still alive and burning 400 calories during sleep and much more during waking hours. A person in hibernation, doesn't. If these processes aren't slowed, there would be no reason to put a person to sleep for a long space voyage, I think. $\endgroup$ – ozone Mar 4 '16 at 16:23

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.