The cold-shock response induced by cold water swimming

  • Research type

    Research Study

  • Full title

    The cold shock response induced by cold water swimming: does physiological hypothermia induce transcription of cold shock proteins RNA-binding protein 3 (RBM3) and Reticulon 3 (RTN3)?



  • Contact name

    Carolyn Read

  • Contact email

  • Duration of Study in the UK

    0 years, 3 months, 0 days

  • Research summary

    Very cold temperatures cause animals, and humans, to cool down and drop their 'core' temperature. This is called hypothermia. It occurs naturally during hibernation and is used medically in situations such as brain injury in newborn babies and trauma. Hypothermia is known to be protective to brain cells, but it is not understood how.

    A recent study by our team discovered that the protective effects of cooling are mediated by a special group of proteins called 'cold shock' proteins, called 'RBM3' and 'RTN3'. We were able to show that these proteins have normal protective actions in the brains of mice that keep brain cells and their contacts healthy.

    In mouse models of neurodegenerative disease, including models of Alzheimer’s and prion diseases, we discovered that these protective proteins were deficient. Boosting the levels of RBM3 by cooling mice to hibernation temperatures or by giving them extra doses of RBM3 by injection into the brain, prevented brain degeneration in the Alzheimer and prion mice, increasing their memory and survival.

    We now want to know whether cold shock proteins, including RBM3 and RTN3 are important in humans for neuroprotection. We know these are expressed in human brain and blood, and we know from mice that these levels correlate. If they are active in humans, we aim to develop ways of increasing RBM3/RTN3 levels therapeutically to protect against neurodegeneration.

    Our first step is to measure levels of RBM3 in the blood of healthy adults in response to cooling. Cold-water swimmers regularly undergo recreational hypothermia. We will measure blood levels of RBM3/ RTN3 in a group of swimmers and in age-matched controls who don’t swim in cold water. In this way we will understand whether RBM3/RTN3 are induced by cooling in humans, and whether they therefore represent new targets for therapies.

  • REC name

    South West - Central Bristol Research Ethics Committee

  • REC reference


  • Date of REC Opinion

    14 Aug 2015

  • REC opinion

    Further Information Favourable Opinion