Scandinavian brown bear hibernation as a biological model for tissue protection, regeneration and repair in human medicine

This researcher network investigates how a detailed understanding of the hibernation of the Scandinavian brown bear can contribute to the development of a variety of medical strategies to improve human health.

Sedentary lifestyle, with no or little physical activity, and long-term hospital immobilisation are associated with vascular thrombosis, heart failure, metabolic syndrome, and osteoporosis. New strategies to deal with these problems would be of immense benefit for individuals as well as society at large. This project focuses on biological features which protect some hibernating animals in comparable situations.

Scandinavian brown bears stay inside their winter dens for 5-7 months, and during this sleeping period they do not eat, drink, defecate, urinate, or perform any physical activity. Despite this, brown bears do not suffer from wasted muscle tissue (atrophy), blood clotting diseases (coagulopathies), bedsore (decubitus ulcer), osteoporosis or deteriorated heart function - hardships which affect humans in similar situation.

Unlike most other hibernating animals, the brown bear sustains a body temperature (31-35°C) close to normal during winter sleep. It has therefore been speculated that bears have unique temperature-independent strategies protecting them.

Blood and fat are obtained from wild brown bears during winter hibernation and from the same animals during non-hibernation in summer. Since research on hibernating wild brown bears has not been done before, this study will generate unique biological material to the benefit of different scientific areas beside medicine.

This network aims to strengthen the collaboration on four major areas:

  1. research training and exchange in the Nordic area
  2. building of a research database
  3. meeting infrastructure
  4. preparation for EU grant applications

This project is performed in collaboration with the Scandinavian Brown Bear Research Project and several Nordic university departments.

Facts about the project
Project manager

Ole Fröbert, Örebro University Hospital, Sweden

ole.frobert@orebroll.se

Funding scheme
Researcher networks
Duration
2011-2014