Hibernation Research using Mice


Wednesday, October 25, 2023 - 14:00 to 15:00


B503 (Center Bldg)



Speaker: Dr. Gensho Sunagawa, Team Leader

Affiliation: Laboratory for Hibernation Biology RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research

Title: Hibernation Research using Mice



Hibernation is a fascinating natural transition that occurs in some mammals when faced with food scarcity. During hibernation, the animals actively switch off their metabolism to lower their body temperature and reduce energy expenditure, which is of great interest owing to its potential medical benefits. However, the inability to instantly induce hibernation in animals has been a major obstacle in hibernation research. Fortunately, our group has demonstrated that the excitation of QRFP-containing neurons (Q neurons) at the mouse hypothalamus induces a long-lasting hypometabolic and hypothermic state that resembles hibernation (Takahashi TM et al., Nature, 2020). This breakthrough has transformed hibernation basic research into an experiment-testable field. We named this state QIH after Q neurons–induced hypometabolism, which can be induced on-demand by stimulating the genetically expressed receptors on the Q neurons pharmacologically or ontogenetically. We are now testing how the hibernation-like state affects physiological and pathophysiological conditions, fully taking advantage of QIH. Remarkably, inducing QIH has been found to suppress several acute diseases, providing strong evidence of the potential utility of synthetic hibernation to humans. These findings open up new avenues for research into hibernation and the potential medical applications of this fascinating transition in metabolic state.



Genshiro A. Sunagawa is a Team Leader at RIKEN BDR, directing the Laboratory for Hibernation Biology. After obtaining his M.D. degree from Kyoto University in 2001, he worked as a pediatrician from 2001 to 2006. During his clinical service, he noticed that synthetic hibernation might solve some clinical issues and decided to enter the basic research field to develop synthetic hibernation for humans. By 2015, he joined Dr. Masayo Takahashi’s Laboratory for Retinal Regeneration, RIKEN CDB, as a research scientist and started investigating the mechanism of active hypometabolism in mammals. Since then, he has been investigating daily torpor in mice, and in 2020, he and his collaborator, Dr. Takeshi Sakurai discovered a method to induce a hibernation-like state, the QIH (Q neurons–Induced Hypometabolism), in mice. In 2022, he became a Team Leader at BDR, and his team ambitiously aims to pioneer synthetic hibernation in humans.

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