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Strategies to protect mammalian neural tissue against cold and potentially other metabolic stresses


The nervous system in non-hibernating mammals is intrinsically unable to withstand severe cold conditions, as low temperature irreversibly damages the neuronal microtubules that vital neuronal activities rely on. In contrast to humans and other nonhibernating animals which deteriorate in response to cold, the neurons of the Ground Squirrel maintain their microtubules in intact state. NEI scientists have found that by targeting the activities of mitochondria and the protein degradation machineries, the cold-sensitive mammalian neural tissue can survive and recover after cold stress.

Product: Treatment methods and drug combinations that target mitochondrial stress and microtubule destruction to prevent neuronal and non -neuronal tissues from cold damage

Use: The technology may be used to extend the shelf-life and preserve the functionality of isolated or post-mortem human tissues or organs for research or transplantation purposes. It can be used as a precautious treatment to humans before their long-term exposure to a hypothermic environment, medical emergencies, or even space travel. It can also be used to improve the outcome of ‘therapeutic hypothermia’, which has been clinically applied to treat traumatic brain injuries, stroke, ischemia and preterm babies.

Competitive Advantage: This is the first treatment and drug combination to prolong microtubule stability and tissue preservation at low temperatures.


iPSCs from a Hibernator Provide a Platform for Studying Cold Adaptation and Its Potential Medical Applications Cell. 2018 May 3;173(4):851-863.e16.

Intellectual Property: NEI/NIH has secured intellectual property of this technology which is available for co-development, non-exclusive/exclusive license consideration. Ref # E-165-2017

Inventors: Jingxing Ou and Wei Lei (NEI)


Mala Dutta, Ph.D.
Office of Translational Research

Last updated: May 18, 2020