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Zebrafish and Induced Hibernation


New research in zebrafish has demonstrated how induced hibernation (torpor) may protect humans from the elements of space, especially radiation, during space flight.

  • The researchers exposed zebrafish to radiation like what would be experienced on a six-month journey to Mars.
  • They observed signs of oxidative stress (imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals), DNA damage, stress hormone signaling, and changes to the cell-division cycle.
  • The researchers then induced torpor in the second group of zebrafish which were then exposed to the same dose of radiation.
  • The results showed that torpor lowered the metabolic rate within the zebrafish and created a radioprotective effect, protecting against the harmful effects of radiation.
  • Torpor, a form of hibernation, is a brief spell of suspended animation. It usually lasts less than a day. When in torpor, an animal’s metabolism, heartbeat, breathing, and body temperature are greatly reduced.


  • Scientific Name: Danio rerio
  • It is a small (2-3 cm long) freshwater fish found in the tropical and subtropical regions. The fish is native to South Asia’s Indo-Gangetic plains, where they are mostly found in the paddy fields and even in stagnant water and streams.
  • They are classified as a species of least concern on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.