The human body does not respond well to a sedentary lifestyle. In the most severe cases, lack of activity can lead to atrophied muscles, blood clots, obesity, and even heart failure. However, bears hibernate for months on end and emerge in the spring perfectly healthy. Researchers at the University of Minnesota are unraveling the biology of this seemingly simple achievement to gain insight on how we can avoid these symptoms.
As a professor in the Medical School departments of Surgery and Integrative Biology and Physiology, Paul Iaizzo is especially interested in the application of hibernation techniques to the hospital environment. For instance, patients who are bedridden for long enough can develop blood clots and lose significant amounts of muscle while trying to recover from another disease. In these cases, it would be much better if the patients could instead go into a state similar to hibernation, in which they wouldn’t even need to eat, drink, urinate or defecate.
Iaizzo also sees potential for improvement in the realm of heart transplants. He’s been studying delta opioids, which trigger hibernation in black bears, and their effect on swine hearts. So far, he’s been able to reanimate isolated hearts with 50 percent less tissue death than without the opioids.
“Right now a human heart is viable for transplant only four to six hours once it’s isolated out of the patient,” Iaizzo says in a recent University of Minnesota press release.
“Logistically, that’s a nightmare. But what if, by preconditioning it with these delta opioids, we could extend a heart’s viability to eight or even 10 or more hours? That would be huge.”
(A mother bear hibernates with her cubs. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
“Our biggest hope is that we’ll be able to use components of hibernation induction triggers in human patients to enhance the viability of the affected tissues or, even better, preserve organs for transplant surgery.”
Iaizzo’s cardiac work is supported by a grant from the NSF. The University of Minnesota boasts a $830 million research and development marketplace fueled by studies like this one. For more information about grants and funding for UMN, read our free University of Minnesota Funding Statistics Report accessible via the link below.
Minnesota is the place to be this May, since Biotechnology Calendar, Inc. is hosting two of its BioResearch Product Faire™ events there. First, we have the BioResearch Product Faire™ Event in Rochester, Minnesota on May 20th, 2015, followed by the BioResearch Product Faire™ Event at The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities on May 22nd, 2015. The latter event will be held directly on the thriving University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus. Biotechnology Calendar is a full service event marketing and planning company producing on-campus, life science research trade shows nationwide for the past 20 years. We plan and promote each event to bring the best products and services to the finest research campuses across the country. To attend one of these shows, please click the buttons below. Otherwise, feel free to peruse our 2015 show schedule.