Here are highlights of my favorite abstracts covering the topics of hibernation and fasting that were presented at the Experimental Biology meeting last week:
-Drs. Allyson Hindle and Sandra Martin from the University of Colorado Denver in Aurora, CO presented “Muscle regeneration occurs in late hibernation despite continued loss of body mass.” They showed evidence that the muscle volume of hibernating 13-lined ground squirrels (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus) declined from the onset of hibernation (October) through early February. This was expected since the animals were fasting and not active during that time. What was interesting, however, was that muscle volume actually began to increase significantly during the remaining months of hibernation even though the animals continued to lose total body mass. Image Source: University of Texas, El Paso.
-Researchers investigating elephant seals have discovered that antioxidant levels are increased with prolonged fasting offering protection from tissue damage caused by oxidative stress and inflammation. This is remarkable since fasting in terrestrial mammals typically leads to increased expression of pro-oxidative stress markers and inflammation. (Jose Vazquez-Medina, and Drs. Tania Zenteno-Savin, Henry Forman, Daniel Crocker , Rudy Ortiz; “The antioxidant system of the elephant seal during their natural prolonged fast”) Image Source: Robert Siegel, Stanford University.