Have you ever been so sick you just wanted to sleep it away? Well science is showing there is something to that thought by studying hibernating 13-lined ground squirrels.
Dana Merriman at the University of Wisconsin Osh Kosh typically does vision studies on the squirrels but turned to breeding them when the captive population dwindled and the research community took note of the physiology of the hibernators.
Ground squirrels are extreme hibernators, meaning they express the phenotype in a dramatic way which ups the chances of finding the hibernation mechanism. It is because of this state of torpor that makes them attractive as research subjects for many reasons….how do they routinely become obese, hibernate, come out in spring nice and svelte without developing obesity related diseases like diabetes or heart disease? How can they, during hibernation, take their kidneys to extremely low temperatures for many days, bring them back up and suffer no ill effects? And in the case of this study, how to they keep from the dramatic muscle atrophy that would plague a human inactive for months on end?
“Hibernators have got something right,” Merriman said. “They’ve evolved the kinds of avoidances of challenges to their physiology and anatomy that we could only wish we had for patients.”
Plus, in this crazy squirrel lady’s mind, they are darn cute! Click below to read more.