I'm a laboratory technician working with Professor Vladyslav Vyazovskiy to elucidate the neural and molecular mechanisms required to induce torpor and hibernation, using Djungarian hamsters (Phodopus sungorus) as an experimental model. The Vyazovskiy Group has established the only breeding colony of Djungarian hamsters in England.
The overall aim of the research project at Vyazovskiy Group is to investigate the relationship between the state of torpor and sleep-wake states in hamsters, using a combination of behavioural, metabolic, and electrophysiological criteria. The animals will be kept under short and long photoperiods and monitored continuously with thermal imaging cameras to detect torpor bouts. Behavioural experiments will be performed before, during, and after torpor bouts and consist of a standard battery of rodent tests, including locomotor activity, Spatial Working Memory testing, tests for anxiety, and novel object recognition. A subset of animals will be implanted with EEG/EMG electrodes for chronic sleep monitoring combined with home-cage-based indirect calorimetry. Sleep deprivation will also be performed to investigate the relationship between sleep homeostasis and hypometabolism.
This research is funded by the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED; 日本医療研究開発機構) titled “Development of new-generation medical care systems through customizing sleep and hibernation” (Moonshot R&D Program). The grant was awarded to the University of Tsukuba (Prof. Masashi Yanagisawa, Director of International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine (WPI-IIIS)), in collaboration with the University of Oxford (the Vyazovskiy Group).