Unlocking the Mysteries of Human Hibernation

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Chasing Ghosts: Unlocking the Mysteries of Human Hibernation

Jackson Ryan

Quote:After 24 days, he was found by a passing climber and transferred to Kobe City Medical Center General Hospital. He was extremely hypothermic and cold to the touch. Many of his organs were failing. According to news reports at the time, Uchikoshi's doctors reasoned he had fallen into a state "similar to hibernation," just like a groundhog might.

When I first heard the story, I quickly became fascinated by it -- for two reasons. First, it was a tale of superhuman survival. Uchikoshi had overcome broken bones, freezing cold and extreme levels of hunger that should have killed him. Not only did he survive, he was discharged from hospital after 50 days with no lasting injuries. If his doctors were right, something must have changed in Uchikoshi's brain, enabling his body to enter an unheard-of period of stasis. But what exactly?

Second was the story itself. Doctors at Kobe Hospital were incredulous that Uchikoshi had survived. The spate of press the case received suggested other physicians, outside of Kobe, were skeptical this was really hibernation at all. Some deemed the feat physiologically impossible. Once Uchikoshi was released from the hospital, the press and scientists seemed to forget about his case. There were no reports in the scientific literature as to what, exactly, had kept him alive and no explanation for his extraordinary persistence on the peak. Yet his tale remains one of the most commonly cited examples of a latent ability for humans to hibernate. 

What really happened to Mitsutaka Uchikoshi on that mountain in 2006...
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell

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