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Mystery Of Animal Hibernation Solved

A New study has unravelled the mystery behind hibernation of animals that could be used to develop strategies for prolonging shelf life of human organs for transplants and induce a similar state in astronauts for long space travels in future. Each winter hibernating animals perform one of the greatest physiological marvels of nature.

Buried in their dens, they survive months of bitter cold without food by lowering their heart rates, metabolism and body temperature to levels that in humans and other non-hibernating animals would be fate. But it was not known how some animals undergo this amazing transformation and exactly which genes control its onset in autumn and reversal in spring.

Researchers of North Carolina state University (NCSU) in the US have, in a five-year study, identified and mapped two genes for enzymes that play important roles in hibernation in ground squirrels. The two genes are nearly identical to ones found in non-hibernating mammals including humans,. According to a report from the university.

If the enzymes, responsible for preserving organs, reducing glucose consumption and maintaining muscle tone during hibernation are identified, physicians can develop new method for prolonging shelf life of organs for transplants, Matthew Andrews, head of the research team, says.

The finding can also help find treatment for humans suffering from starvation, muscle atrophy, oxygen deficiency and reduced body temperature (hypothermia). The researchers say. One of the genes identified by the team controls the production of pancreatic triglyceride lipase, and enzyme that breaks up triglycerides (stored fatty acids) and converts them into usable fats for fuel in the hibernating ground squirrels.

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