Hibernating bears may hold the secret to treating diabetes

Pullman, Washington –New research shows that real-life Winnie the Pooh cousins ​​can hold the key to beating diabetes. Scientists from Washington State University say a bear’s hibernation cycle has a unique ability to regulate insulin, even when bears sleep for months.

A diet rich in sugar is the main trigger for metabolic disorder in humans. It is the result of resistance to insulin, a hormone that controls glucose.

However, large, furry mammals can turn it on and off – almost like a switch. Now, scientists have found their secret, a certain group of Hibernate proteins.

The team narrowed down the thousands of gene expression changes to eight, to be exact. The researchers made the discovery by feeding honey, Boo’s favorite food, to bears while they were hibernating.

“It appears that there are eight proteins that work either independently or together to modulate insulin sensitivity and insulin resistance observed in hibernating bears,” says Joanna Kelly, an evolutionary geneticist at WSU and corresponding author of the study. Media release. All eight of these proteins have human homologs. It is not unique to bears. The same genes are present in humans, meaning there may be a direct chance of translation.”

A mid-hibernation snack reveals how insulin regulation works

The researchers looked at changes in cell cultures exposed to serum taken from grizzlies located at the WSU Bear Center. They collected samples during the active and hibernation seasons, including one cycle the team interrupted by giving the bears water mixed with honey.

Various cocktails highlighted genetic changes. It was serum from the mid-hibernation feeding period that helped identify important proteins.

“By feeding the bears only for two weeks while they hibernate, it allowed us to control other things like day length and temperature as well as food availability,” says Kelly.

bear They usually get up and move around a little while hibernating, but don’t eat, pee, or defecate. The study authors used these waking moments to introduce therapy to them. The extra sugar disrupted hibernation behavior, enabling this first-of-its-kind study.

When the serum was placed in cell culture taken from hibernating bears regularly, they began to show changes in gene activity similar to those in an active season. Professor Kelly and his colleagues plan to investigate how proteins are reversed Insulin resistance.

Mapping the bear genome offers hope for a cure

The findings may eventually lead to the development of treatments that prevent, or even a curediabetic.

“This is a progression toward getting a better understanding of what happens at the genetic level and identifying specific molecules that control insulin resistance in bears,” explains Blair Berry, co-first author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at WSU.

The tools for understanding genetics are becoming more and more complex. Researchers recently Complete DNA mapping of brown bears, of which Grizzlies is a member. The updated genome may help provide better insights into bear genetics including how to manage hibernation.

“There is an inherent value in studying the diversity of life around us and all these unique and strange adaptations that have arisen,” concludes Berry, who has also studied the genetic makeup of snake venom.

“By understanding the genomic basis for these alterations, we gain a better understanding of what we share with other species, and what makes us special as humans.”

The study was published in the journal iScience.

Southwest News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.