Scientists ow know how hibernation works, in squirrels anyway.
(Medical Press)- Hibernation is an essential survival strategy for some animals and scientists have long thought it could also hold promise for human survival. But how hibernation works is largely unknown. Scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks have successfully induced hibernation at will, showing how the process is initiated. Their research is published in the July 26 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.
A hibernating animal has a reduced heart rate and blood flow similar to a person in cardiac arrest, yet the hibernator doesn't suffer the brain damage that can occur in people. "Understanding the neuroprotective qualities of hibernating animals may lead to development of a drug or therapy to save people's lives after a stroke or heart attack," said Kelly Drew, senior author and UAF professor of chemistry and biochemistry in the Institute of Arctic Biology.
Hibernating animals survive by severely reducing their metabolism, a condition called torpor, in which oxygen consumption can fall to as low as one percent of resting metabolic rate and core body temperature to near or below freezing temperatures.
Arctic ground squirrels, like all animals and people, produce a molecule called adenosine that slows nerve cell activity. "When a squirrel begins to hibernate and when you feel drowsy it's because adenosine molecules have attached themselves to receptors in your brain," said Tulasi Jinka, lead author and IAB post-doctoral fellow in Drew's lab. Keep on reading.