WSU Researchers Studying Bears’ Hibernation To Narrow Down A Cure For Diabetes

Mar 7, 2012

RICHLAND, Wash. – Hibernating bears do things that doctors tell humans not to do. They eat fatty foods, lay around for months on end and get high cholesterol. Yet they don’t suffer the same ill effects we would.

Washington State University researchers have teamed up with a biotech company. They’ve begun a $200,000 study on how grizzly bears can gain so much fat each year and sleep through the winter. But each spring they emerge without diabetes or heart disease.

Researchers are monitoring eight bears’ heart rates, blood pressure, blood chemistry and overall health.

“Our biggest surprises have been how high their cholesterols have been, how high their blood pressures are, and how they have insulin resistance or a pre-diabetic type of state.” says Lynne Nelson, a veterinarian cardiologist with WSU.

Nelson says novel proteins or chemical processes in the bears’ bodies might help human health.

Taking the bears’ blood pressure isn’t as challenging as you might think. The animals at the WSU Pullman campus bear center are trained, and others are sedated briefly.

On the Web:

Dr. Nelson's bear research:

Washington State University Bear Center:

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio