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The Center for Transformative Research in Metabolism is unlocking the secrets of hibernation

Published: Dec. 2, 2020 at 4:20 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -Kelly Drew is the director for the Center of Transformative Research in Metabolism (TRIM). The center was started by a National Institute of Health grant, and seeks to apply the unique metabolic qualities of hibernating animals to medical treatments for humans.

"Most people don't have access to hibernating animals and most people don't see this extreme...
"Most people don't have access to hibernating animals and most people don't see this extreme physiology, that makes you think outside the box, because it's not normal. I mean this little guy, he's completely out of it right?" - Kelly Drew(Ryan Osborne)

“These animals have unique aspects to their metabolism, for example they really don’t move for the hibernation season, so they don’t put any weight on their legs. If a human was to do that for 8 months they would lose a significant amount of muscle mass,” said Drew

If fully understood, the muscle retention and regenerative abilities of these ground squirrels could lead to treatments for age related illness such as frailty, fatty liver disease, and vascular dementia, as well as provide medical advantages for space travel.

“If somebody were to have a cardiac arrest or stroke in space or if the oxygen in the spacecraft was below critical levels, they could induce the hibernation like state where they don’t need very much oxygen until they were able to return to Earth orbit,” said Drew

Kelly Drew and her team at the University of Alaska Fairbanks are advocating for infrastructure for human clinical trials.

“The more that people are interested, the more we can make happen here. It gives them access to cutting edge medical interventions, and it’s a clinical trial they don’t even need to pay for,” said Drew

The many researchers at TRIM will continue their work bringing the evolutionary benefits of ground squirrels and other hibernating mammals to hospital beds and the reaches of space.

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