On November 20th last year, Prof. Dr. R.H. Henning from the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, gave an interesting TEDx talk about hibernation and its importance for human medicine. TEDx Groningen just recently released the video of this inspiring talk “Is human hibernation possible”.

Sulfateq BV has a close working relationship with the University of Groningen, especially with Prof. Dr. R.H. Henning and his team, to find out how to exploit the secrets of hibernation for the benefit of medicine. This research and cooperation has led to the successful development and synthesis of effective chemical compounds that can enhance protective processes for human cells and tissue; the so-called SUL-compounds.

Hibernation and Human Health – what’s the connection?

In the video Prof. Henning talks about the fact that during his years as an anaesthesiologist he became intrigued by the way a patient’s body responds to surgery and trauma. He saw an interesting connection with the processes that occur during hibernation. Similar challenging circumstances, like cold and inactivity, but a totally opposite reaction of the body. Where humans cannot survive these harsh circumstances without medical assistance, hibernating animals cope well and show no organ or brain damage after a period of cold and rewarming. Triggered by the scientist in him, he took the first step in researching these biological processes.

The past five years, Rob Henning has dedicated his time to research the protective processes that occur during the hibernation period of hibernating mammals. Henning’s research revealed that hibernators make specific compounds to protect their cells and tissue during hibernation. Additional protective mechanisms are activated by lowering their body temperature. It seems that this magical mix of specific compounds & cooling does the trick to protect their body against difficult circumstances.

Research showed that these compounds work in non-hibernators too, including human cells. Inspired by this knowledge, Sulfateq BV, in cooperation with Henning and his team, started the development of chemical compounds with the same protective efficacy and Sulfateq succeeded in synthesizing these so-called ‘SUL-compounds.’

SUL-Compounds and Application – what to expect for human medicine?

In different studies conducted by Sulfateq with these SUL-compounds as well as in animal models, promising results for applications regarding organ preservation and drug development targeting COPD, Diabetes II and Ischemia Reperfusion Injury were evident. Now, Sulfateq BV is ready to further develop this potential by attracting investors in order to proceed with the different phases of drug development. The first two urgent medical needs they target are COPD and Diabetes II.

In the meantime, Prof. Henning and his team continue to research hibernation, its protective processes and the suppression of the metabolism. Right now, it all depends on investment and funding before human medicine can start to benefit from all the hard work Prof. Henning and his team have done so far. And who knows, maybe in 30 years humans can go into hibernation to survive major surgery or space travelling. Or just the cold winters!