No interstellar travel movie is complete without hibernators. From Prometheus to Passengers, we’ve watched protagonists awaken in hibernation pods, rebooting their fragile physiology from a prolonged state of suspended animation—a violent process that usually involves ejecting stomach fluids.

This violent re-awakening seems to make sense. Humans, after all, don’t naturally hibernate. But a small, eclectic group of scientists is battling nature to trigger artificial hibernation in humans. If successful, they could delay aging, treat life-threatening illnesses, and get us to Mars and beyond.

Last week, a group of experts gathered in New Orleans to explore the possibility of inducing “synthetic” hibernation in humans. Scientists are learning from nature to understand the factors that lead to hibernation and re-awakening in animals.

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