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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

What Ever Happened with H2S Induced Hibernation?

11-20-19 Humans Placed in Suspended Animation for the First Time

What Ever Happened with H2S Induced Hibernation?

I wrote this post on April 22, 2006

One year ago today, something extraordinary happened...

Mark Roth at Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center in Seattle announced the astounding ability to induced hibernation in mice by having them breathe 80 parts per million (ppm) hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S). Yes, that's the gas that smells like rotten eggs.

Not only did these critters fall asleep for six hours, their heart rate and respiration dropped by 92% - apparently replicating the effects of true hibernation. And their temperature dropped to 2 degrees C above ambient temperature. They in effect became cold-blooded.

It should also be noted, when the gas was removed, the mice awoke with no apparent ill effects. The critters could still run their maze in a normal fashion.

There are hints that H2S Induced Hibernation might be a natural defense mechanism or at least a normal biological process. It appears this H2S gas is produced by the body under certain
conditions and may be the key to normal hibernation. This may also be the cause of "Cold Water Shock Reflex" in which those who have "drowned" in cold water come back to life.

At 80 ppm, H2S can not simply be replacing O2 in the blood which exist at 210,000 PPM in typical air. It seems that H2S acts more like a hormone causing ALL cells in the body to slow down at the same time. Is H2S the body's way of adjusting the thermostat?

Hold on! I'm way out of my element here. I'm not qualified to do biology. I'm not even qualified to write about it.

But I DO considered this ASTOUNDING news! And indeed the world reported it. Well at least in a tepid way (sorry about the pun). From the BBC to the Washington Post they did at least rehash Mark's original work. Even
Wikipedia added three paragraphs to the Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) page. I was impressed with that.

But THAT was it...

I'm serious.

Nothing more.

No follow-up questions.

No follow-up answers.

No in-depth reporting.

No detailed analysis.

No flying out to Seattle.

No camping on the lawn.

No helicopter shots.

No checking tax returns.

Hell, Tom Cruise jumps up and down on a couch and the media follows him around for weeks! Where is the coverage for the stuff that REALLY counts? Oh well. I would wait. There was sure to be more news on the topic in a short time. So I set my Google news reader and waited...

And waited...

And waited...

And I'm still waiting.

It's been one year. Other than some comments from an aging blog and one think tank, there has been nothing at all. Nothing! Am I way off base or is this NOT a Nobel class discovery?

Where's the follow-up from Mark Roth?

Where's the H2S Induced Hibernation blog?

Where are the frat boy posts about their flatulent experiments?

Where's the Flatliner crew?

Where's Kiefer Sutherland when we need him?

Where are all the science fiction plots?

When I read the news release last year, I thought follow-up would be like the coverage for Cold Fusion a few years ago - lots of people trying to reproduce the results. Maybe we would even get some quick test with humans.

But no...




What's a geek to do? There's only one thing. Ask the questions that SHOULD have been asked a year ago. So here goes.

Does this Roth effect work longer than six hours?

Does it work for days?

Does it work for weeks?

Does it work for months?

Does it work on other larger mammals?

Does it work on humans?

Any obvious side effects?

Any long term side effects?

How long can someone stay under without ill effects?

Does this low-level metabolism consume fat like it does in bears?

Does muscle tone also atrophy?

Does this low-level metabolism extend life?

Is 80 PPM a threshold or is there a proportional effect at 40 PPM? 20 PPM?

What happens at 160 ppm? Is the sleep deeper? (yes, I know H2S is deadly at higher concentration, but so is table salt).

Is this truly a natural feature of mammals?
  If H2S is produced internally, can the effect be induced by meditation? If so, how does one exit the state?

I could go on and on but you get the idea. To get the answers to these and other questions, first they have to be asked. And then asked by the right people. That's what this blog post is all about. We need the right people asking these questions - not me.

There's a saying in the world of finance, "Capital finds it's highest and best use". This seems to take a little longer with science. It also takes imagination, speculation and a whole lot of

Promotion is important. America was not named for Columbus. America was named for a navigator and blogger of the fifteenth century - Amerigo Vespucci. His letters were published widely on his
return from the new world. He didn't discover anything, but promoted what he found. The name stuck.

That's why H2S Induced Hibernation now needs to be all about blogs, Digg and Wikipedia. It's up to us. It's time for some speculation. Maybe even some speculative fiction. We need serious talent
applied to finding the answers to the above and other questions. More discussion may help.

Here are some ideas as to how H2S could be used. Maybe this will help move things along.

Time in trauma care - This one is obvious. With such low concentrations of H2S needed, a simple regulator mask in first aid kits might extend that "Critical Hour" to a "Critical Day" giving time to do a better
job with transport, evaluation, and treatment. It's easier to stop bleeding when the heart is only pumping eight times per minute. It's easier to keep cells alive when their demand for resources has dropped by 92%.

Mine Disasters - During the recent mine disaster in West Virginia, the miners only had air for one hour. Could this have been extended to 12 hours by adding a little H2S to those respirators? Coal mine accidents are an even bigger problem in China with over 6,000 dead per year. Think of the lives that could be saved even if a small percentage had this advantage.

Fire Escape - Since most fire deaths are caused by smoke inhalation, many extra minutes could be gained with one of those new and improved masks from the coal mine? Check the first-aid kit. Is it there yet? Again, the lives saved would be in the thousands

Underwater Rescue - Another good application for limited oxygen? And maybe a re-make of the movie Abyss? Lots of possibilities here.

ALL incurable disease - This is a no brainer. Got a problem? Take a break for a while. Wake up to review the literature. Take another break. Repeat until cured.

Medical scheduling - Waiting for an organ? Make
sure you have enough time. It's better than death.

Military Use - Lot's of possibilities here, from trauma to transport. Here's where Kiefer Suterland comes in with a new release of 24 Hours lived in 24 years. How's THAT for a challenge to
his premise?

Sleep Efficiency - How about all that time we waste sleeping? Might we extend our life by taking it deeper? Or maybe the opposite, and find out how to shorten sleep? Keep an open mind.

Weight Loss - this could be a biggie, both in terms of dollars and quality of life. Let's say you're not a fan of winter anyway. Why not do like the bears do? You could wake up ready for your
new spring swim suit.

Capital Punishment - This is a bit radical, but at least it's not a death sentence. And they aren't causing any problems in the mean time. In time we might even find a "cure" for murder.

Pregnant Mothers - This might at first seem radical too, but Mark Roth's page refers to "embryonic diapause, a pause in embryonic development found in about 70 species of mammals". It might be
useful one way or the other. Don't count it out.

Punishment - What the hell. Let's put them ALL on ice as a cost reduction measure! We could count it as good time. Would it still be punishment? Fun to think about. (note - after I wrote this I found one blog post at World Think Tank that talked about using H2S for prison riot control. Could we extent this to riot control in general?)

Athletes - Since I'm getting radical, how about extending the performance window of our very best athletes? We could give them the option of waking up every four years in time to train for the Olympics. The other option would simply be to let them "rest" off season.

Space Travel - Yep. Classic application. Maybe we could finally do some. There are at the very least, some fresh movie plots here, or the chance to make them more realistic.

Time Travel - This is of course relative and one direction. But how about sleeping a few weeks at a time and find yourself subjectively rushing forward into the future? It might be fun.

Tivo for life - This is an extension of the time travel idea - sort of fast forward when you want, live life when YOU want. Let's say you're a basketball fan but hate the rest of the year -
beep, beep, beep. Treat the boring parts of life like one big commercial. Live life on YOUR terms!

Tivo for the heart - Will H2S sleep dampen a heartache? I think Heinlein used this in "Door Into Summer". Would it help? Who knows. If you've ever been there, anything's worth a try.

Tivo for the soul - Could this be the ultimate form of meditation? Stay awake for only short slices of life and jump WAY into the future. Would it give you a different perspective? Would you dream? Would it matter?

Anyway, you get the idea. The point is, there are LOTS of possibilities not being effectively promoted. Feel free to ad yours below. These examples are why it's so important to know...

H2S Induced Hibernation useful?

It's been a YEAR!

Clue us in.

Or is everyone, "No Longer Sleepless in Seattle" ?

BTW, amazing work Mark. Congratulations.

Sudden Disruption

The latest:

Apparently "Torpor" is the new handle for this technology:

09-30-10  Considering the theme of my original post, here is yet another example of the media missing the story and working the "politically incorrect" angle.  

In this case, documents were revealed from a Naval Surgeon in 1805. The headline is about "Bizarre naval experiments" and the focus is tobacco smoke and deliberate transmission of venereal disease, when the real story is quite probably the first documented case of suspended animation.  

When will they ever "get it"?

Bizarre naval experiments revealed

  Significant advancement and recognition for the concept of induced hibernation! 

I revisit this topic each year.  It appears there's been significant progress.  Look through my list of uses below to understand why, and how important this discovery is.  Or start with Mark Roth's latest TED video at the end of the post.

Another major update 02-18-10 - Wired Interview

11-20-19 Humans Placed in Suspended Animation for the First Time

12-06-19 Woman Survives  six hours

03-16-20 Hydrogen Sulfide Is an Antiviral

06-15-20 Switch in Mouse Brain Induces a Deep Slumber Similar to Hibernation


  1. I want to thank Charlie Stross for pointing out the Scientific American June 2005 cover story by Mark Roth and Todd Nystul. It contains far more information than the news stories and is an excellent read.


    Specifically, I want to pass on two important points from the article.

    One, it appears that hibernation occurs when almost all O2 is non-available. But smaller amounts of O2 cause damage. They have actually ploted the "damage" curve of O2 concentration. Very interesting work.

    The other important point is that it appears H2S might have been the prototype of respiration evolving before O2 consentrations were high enough to support life - sort of a steping stone to breathing. That may be the reason we MAY be able to drop back into H2S mode under certain conditions.

    We shall see...

    And I doubt it will take ten years.

    Again, congraulations to everyone involved.

    Sudden Disruption

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    the radical option for editing text

    Beta test now in progress...

  2. Oh...

    And the "h2shibernation.com" URL is for sale.

    At least someone is taking note.

    udden Disruption

    Sudden View...
    the radical option for editing text

    Beta test now in progress...



    Gas induces 'suspended animation'

    Surgeons 'Suspended animation' could help protect organs during surgery Sewer gas can induce 'suspended animation' in mice, say US scientists, and may help to preserve organ function in critically ill patients.

    Hydrogen sulphide, a toxic gas that smells of rotten eggs, occurs naturally in swamps, springs and volcanoes.

    But in mice, it was found to slow down heart rate and breathing and decrease body temperature, while keeping a normal blood pressure.

    The results were presented at the American Physiology Society conference.

    In the study carried out at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, mice were administered the gas at a concentration of 80 parts per million - a tenth of the dose which is lethal in humans.

    The problem with hypothermia is it's not that easy to cool down the human body so if we can find another method to inhibit metabolism that would be very useful
    Dr Fumito Ichinose

    The researchers reported that the heart rate fell from 500 to 200 beats per minute and respiration fell from 120 to 25 breaths per minute.

    Core body temperature also fell from 39 to 30 degrees C.

    Despite the reduction in heart rate the blood pressure of the mice did not drop, which tends to happen with other techniques such as lowering body temperature.

    When the researchers repeated the experiment at a higher room temperature, the heart and respiratory rate still fell significantly.

    The effects of the gas seemed to be reversible with the mice returning to normal two hours after the mice started to breathe normal air again.

    Previous research had shown the ability of hydrogen sulphide to induce a state of hibernation in mice but the effects on the cardiovascular system were unknown.

    Some anaesthetics and sedatives can be used to slow down metabolism in the brain but currently the only way to protect other organs is to cool the body and induce hypothermia.

    Trauma patients

    Dr Fumito Ichinose, assistant professor of anaesthesia at Harvard Medical School said that if the effects of hydrogen sulphide was confirmed in larger mammals it could be useful in helping to sustain the functionality of organs in patients undergoing cardiac surgery or in patients with severe trauma.

    "There was a large study published last year of patients who had cardiac arrest. They kept them in a hypothermic state for a while and the outcome was much better.

    "The problem with hypothermia is it's not that easy to cool down the human body so if we can find another method to inhibit metabolism that would be very useful."

    Dr Ichinose added that the findings would need to be replicated in larger animals such as pigs as mice may be more susceptible to induced hibernation.

    He added that the safety margin was small. However, he said it was possible that a dose lower than 80 parts per million might also be effective.

    But Dr Chris Pomfrett, lecturer in neurophysiology applied to anaesthesia at the University of Manchester said further studies were needed to clarify whether the reduced blood pressure and respiration were really associated with hibernation or whether the findings were a result of poisonous effects of the gas.

    "My big question about this work is: is it reducing brain metabolism or simply having a toxic effect on the brain stem?

    "Although the mice appeared normal they didn't look to see if there was any damage to the mice post-mortem.

    "I would also do an electroencephalogram to measure brain activity in the mice."

    He added that there would be lots of problems with using hydrogen sulphide in clinical practice because it was so toxic.

    "This is interesting and certainly something that should be investigated but I have reservations about its use in humans," he said.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. The research has indeed progressed. The intellectual property was licensed to the biotech company, Ikaria (www.ikaria.com). They are conducting clinical trials in humans now. See: http://www.drugs.com/clinical_trials/ikaria-completes-dosing-phase-1a-clinical-study-ik-1001-sodium-sulfide-4322.html

  6. I too followed this research. However, it appears the research or funding ended in 2011 for unknown reasons.

    1. Yes, what happened here? The clinical trials stopped and any mention of this work. Who knows what happened?

  7. I called and wrote Dr Roth this year as a fellow physician in Seattle but no answer. I then called Ikaria the manufacturer and asked when the medication would be available. They politely disavowed any knowledge about hydrogen sulfide research.

    This is now a "Blackbox" matter. No one will talk about it. No one will publish the earlier research for peer review. Maybe it worked and another agency took it over. Maybe it didn't work on humans after successful animal trials. There's no way to know if everyone involved has gone quiet. Very sad.

  8. Great read. I also end up thinking about/discussing Roth's work from time to time and wonder why I don't see or hear about it now. I was wondering if it was/could be used in the treatment of rabies. Is it just the cooling of humans is too hard to do without causing an unjustifiable amount of harm?

  9. I've found that tech moves forward in fits and starts for lots of reasons. I suspect this topic too will advance again once another qualified crusader steps forward. In the meantime, I believe the best way to keep the ideas alive is fiction which was one of the main reasons I originally wrote the post.

    Thanks for reading.

  10. I have recently come across this topic and think the idea of Hydrogen Sulfide induced hibernation is groundbreaking and needs more research. I want to see what comes of it. So strange that it fizzled out.