UAF Researchers Unlocking Secret of Hibernation

University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers are unlocking the secrets of hibernation. The studies are aimed tapping the mechanism that safely slows down metabolism, as a tool to save humans from heart attack and trauma. UAF neuro-scientist Kelly Drew says a chemical in the brains of hibernating and non-hibernating animals has been identified as a trigger for torpor state.

Drew and fellow UAF researcher Tulasi Jinka have been practicing on rats. Natural hibernators like bears and arctic ground squirrels only go into the torpor state during the winter. Drew says experiments on arctic ground squirrels have shown receptivity to adenosine has a seasonal element.

The next steps in Drew and Jinka’s work probe how season increases receptivity to adenosine and whether artificially inducing the torpor state can increase survival of cardiac arrest. An article on their research is published in the July 26 edition of the journal Neuroscience.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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