Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Biochemical tricks of the hibernating bear

Date: February 16, 2017
Source: American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB)

Winter is in full swing, and many of us have fantasized about curling up in a warm cave and slumbering until the warmth of spring arrives, just like a bear. Bears have the ability to sleep away the harsh winter months when food is scarce. They can spend five to seven months in hibernation. During this time, bears do not eat, drink, excrete or exercise. Despite the length of inactivity, bears do not experience bone loss, muscle loss, heart complications or blood clots like humans do during extended bouts of inactivity.

In a recent paper published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, Karen Gjesing Welinder at Aalborg University in Denmark and colleagues set out to understand how wild Scandinavian brown bears protect their health and save energy during hibernation.

"The bear's tricks for hibernation adaptations can inspire and teach us to prevent effects of the restricted mobility of astronauts and of long-term hospitalized patients," says Welinder. "Immobile people lose muscle and bone mass, get blood clots, atherosclerosis and cardiac diseases. Immobile bears do not. Our deeper understanding of the tremendous physiological placidity encoded in animal genomes might be exploited in healthier lifestyles and medical treatments."

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