Mammalian hibernation consists of periods of depressed metabolism and reduced body temperature called "torpor" that are interspersed by normothermic arousal periods. Numerous cellular processes are halted during torpor, including transcription, translation, and ion homeostasis. Hibernators are able to survive long periods of low blood flow and body temperature followed by rewarming and reperfusion without overt signs of organ injury, which makes these animals excellent models for application of natural protective mechanisms to human medicine. This review examines efforts to induce torpor-like states in non-hibernating species using pharmacological compounds. Elucidating the underlying mechanisms of natural and pharmacologically induced torpor will speed the development of new clinical approaches to treat a variety of trauma and stress states in humans.
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