Home > Documents > Total Shutdown

Total Shutdown

Date post: 21-Jul-2015
Category:
Author: zuberoa-marcos
View: 152 times
Download: 4 times
Share this document with a friend
Embed Size (px)
Popular Tags:
of 4 /4
COSMOS 46 www.cosmosmagazine.com 77 76 www.cosmosmagazine.com COSMOS 46 >> GETTY/iSTOCK Studying the physiology of hibernating bears offers insights that may help treat people with such illnesses as diabetes and osteoporosis. As winter sets in, many animals effectively shut down their bodies in order to survive. Injured humans might benefit from similar techniques, writes Zuberoa Marcos. O N LONG, DARK AND cold winter days, you probably like to go to bed early and find it hard to get up in the morning. Humans survive the winter by rugging up well, switching on the reverse- cycle air-conditioning, and moving from heated cars to heated offices. Animals survive the winter by migrating to where the weather is milder, by remaining active but thickening their ‘coat’ or by changing their diet. But the most extreme method is to completely shut themselves down. For five to seven-and-a-half months of the year, black and brown bears turn themselves off. They do not eat, drink, urinate, defecate or exercise. They reduce their metabolism by 50 to 75% of normal rates. They breathe once every 15 to 60 seconds and their heart rate drops from around 50 to about 10 beats per minute. Hibernation is a strategy to combat extreme environmental conditions. By setting the body metabolism to a kind of slow motion, some animals reduce their energy costs by more than half when food is scarce and later return to an active state as if nothing happened. It’s a strategy also used by squirrels, marmots, hedgehogs, bats and even the fat-tailed dwarf lemur of Madagascar. “All land-dwelling mammals except ungulates [mostly hoofed mammals] and lagomorpha [hares and rabbits] have at least one hibernating species,” says molecular biologist Matthew Andrews, who has studied hibernation for the past 12 years at the University of Minnesota Duluth in the U.S. Hibernators are so widespread in nature that scientists think that the genetic hardware required to go into hibernation is common among all mammals. So why is it that some species hibernate and some do not?
Transcript
  • Cosmos 46 www.cosmosmagazine.com 7776 www.cosmosmagazine.com Cosmos 46

    >>

    get

    ty/

    iStO

    CK

    Studying the physiology of hibernating bears offers insights that may help treat people with such illnesses as diabetes and osteoporosis.

    As winter sets in, many animals effectively

    shut down their bodies in order to survive.

    Injured humans might benefit from similar

    techniques, writes Zuberoa Marcos.

    ON LONG, DARK AND cold winter days, you probably like to go to bed early and find it hard to get up in the morning. Humans survive the winter by

    rugging up well, switching on the reverse-cycle air-conditioning, and moving from heated cars to heated offices.

    Animals survive the winter by migrating to where the weather is milder, by remaining active but thickening their coat or by changing their diet. But the most extreme method is to completely shut themselves down.

    For five to seven-and-a-half months of the year, black and brown bears turn themselves off. They do not eat, drink, urinate, defecate or exercise. They reduce their metabolism by 50 to 75% of normal rates. They breathe once every 15 to 60 seconds and their heart rate drops from around 50 to about 10 beats per minute.

    Hibernation is a strategy to combat extreme environmental conditions. By setting the body metabolism to a kind of

    slow motion, some animals reduce their energy costs by more than half when

    food is scarce and later return to an active state as if nothing happened.

    Its a strategy also used by squirrels, marmots, hedgehogs, bats and even the fat-tailed dwarf lemur of Madagascar. All land-dwelling mammals except ungulates [mostly hoofed mammals] and lagomorpha [hares and rabbits] have at least one hibernating species, says molecular biologist Matthew Andrews, who has studied hibernation for the past 12 years at the University of Minnesota

    Duluth in the U.S. Hibernators are so widespread in nature that

    scientists think that the genetic hardware required to go into hibernation is common among all mammals. So why is it that some species hibernate and some do not?

  • >>

    78 www.cosmosmagazine.com Cosmos 46

    >>

    attack or a stroke, explains Ole Frbert, a cardiologist from rebro University Hospital in Sweden. However, brown bears do not suffer any of this.

    How bears keep their arteries safe under these conditions is what Frbert and his colleagues are investigating.

    double its body weight by adding fat during summer and autumn.

    The cholesterol levels in their blood are double that of humans and their heart beats very, very slowly which is also a risk factor for blood clotting. These conditions [would] put a person on the verge of a heart

    Cosmos 46 www.cosmosmagazine.com 79

    GROUND SQUIRRELS can teach us a lot about brain regeneration. In 2006, H. Craig Heller, a biologist at Stanford University in the U.S., and his colleagues reported in The Journal of Neuroscience that during hibernation, squirrel brains retract many of their dendrites, the tendril-like nerve-cell endings that receive information from other neurons. Yet each time the squirrels wake, even for only a few hours, the dendrites regrow and even faster than during embryonic development. Dendrite retraction also occurs in humans as we age, so understanding how squirrels regenerate their dendrites might help develop new therapies for damaged brains.

    Meanwhile, neonatologist Marianne Thoresen at the University of Bristol in England and anaesthetist John Dingley at Swansea Universitys

    School of Medicine in Wales have developed a pioneering technique to save the lives of babies at risk of brain damage. Riley Joyce was born in April 2010 at the Royal United Hospital, Bath, without a pulse and not breathing, and with a 50% chance of permanent brain injury. He was transferred to St Michaels Hospital, Bristol, where Dingley used cooling and xenon gas to safeguard his brain. Xenon is a very rare and chemically inert gas found in tiny quantities in the air that we breathe, explains Thoresen. In lab studies we have seen it doubles the protective effect of cooling on the brain because it blocks a cell surface receptor whose activation can lead to the death of nerve cells.

    The scientists have spent more than 10 years developing the technique, and Riley became the first in the world

    upon whom it was tested. First, a cold cap slowly cooled his head. Then a xenon breathing system, working in conjunction with a mechanical lung ventilator, administered xenon into the lungs where it is absorbed into the bloodstream, via which it reaches the brain. The xenon was administered until Rileys brain reached 33.5C. He was kept cool for 72 hours and then his brain was slowly re-warmed. After seven days he was doing well and able to take milk for the first time.

    FINDING THE ANSWER is risky. Bears are dangerous animals. Even when hibernating, they can wake suddenly and attack unwanted visitors. So scientists use radio transmitters or GPS devices to locate previously tagged bears in the wilds of Sweden, and tranquilise the animals with darts before approaching. Then, they take blood samples and fat tissue biopsies. Artery samples are collected from bears killed during the legal hunting season.

    We have found that the levels of good and bad cholesterol are both increased in bears blood. This may have some protective effect, Frbert says. In his teams experiment, published online in Clinical and Translational Science in January 2012, its not clear how the animals keep their arteries flexible. Researchers hope to find a molecule that could similarly affect humans blood vessels.

    The secret may be in the animals diet. The fat that hibernators use is very different from the fat humans consume we often eat saturated fats, says Andrews.

    These animals eat seeds, good fats, unsaturated vegetable fats and they also do a good job of producing omega-3 and omega-6 fats, which have beneficial effects on cardiovascular systems.

    Its not only the hibernators diet thats desaturated. They are also pretty good at desaturating the fats in their bodies.

    If fats are saturated they will solidify, turn into butter at low body temperatures so the animals could not use them, says Andrews. But being unsaturated they stay liquid even in a very cold environment. How they do it is what he and other researchers want to understand. Hibernators selectively use fat all winter long and, despite the extra pounds, they stay healthy. This could help us combat obesity and diabetes in humans.

    There is some kind of connection between hibernators and human survivors, people who have cheated death after being submerged in icy water,

    or buried in snow, without oxygen, for hours.O

    le f

    rObe

    rt

    Scientists from the Scandinavian Brown Bear Research Project take blood and fat tissue samples from an anaesthetised hibernating bear for analysis.

    Breath samples are collected to characterise

    brown bear metabolism.

    Cholesterol-defying arteries are not the only evolutionary trick scientists are trying to understand. Colorado State University biomedical engineer Seth Donahue studies how hibernators preserve muscle tone and bone strength despite several months of inactivity each year.

    People normally lose bone as they age. Studies have shown that after menopause, women lose 1 to 2% of their bone mineral density per year. Bedridden patients may lose 3 to 4% of their skeletal mass each month.

    Hibernators, on the other hand, wake up from their long-term dormancy with their skeletons and muscles unaffected. In the case of the squirrels, they have no option if they want to avoid being eaten by foxes and panthers they have to stay strong and mobile and have developed the genetic ability to do this.

    Monitoring bone metabolism markers in the blood of five bears, Donahue found that during hibernation, bone loss and

    Ole

    fr

    Ob

    ert

    There is an evolutionary explanation for this, says Andrews. Humans are largely a tropical species. We evolved in the tropics where food is generally available. We have very thin skin because we had little need to protect ourselves from the cold. If we had evolved in Siberia or Northern Canada we might have [developed] an ability to hibernate because we would be subjected to a limited growing season.

    Since the late 1800s, scientists have tried unsuccessfully to unlock the inner workings of hibernation. Yet molecular biology is slowly unravelling the mysteries of this phenomenon. The spin-off is a deeper understanding of controversial medical technologies that can slow patients respiration to almost zero and bring them back from near death.

    EVERY ANIMAL ON EARTH burns fuel to get the energy to walk, breathe, sleep and keep their bodies at optimal temperatures. Nearly everything about the way an animals body works changes when it hibernates, however, and preparations start months in advance.

    When there is no fruit on the trees and no prey to catch and eat, hibernators take their own fat and break it up to produce ketone bodies, four-carbon molecules that cross the bloodbrain barrier and fuel the brain and the rest of the organs, Andrews says. The switch-over of metabolism to use fat instead of carbohydrates as primary fuel for the body is the main task of hibernators.

    As with most biological processes, hibernation is directed by the products of genes, specifically enzymes. Two enzymes, PDK4 and PTL, are partially responsible for the fuel switch that is seen in hibernating animals, as first described by Andrews and his colleagues in a 1998 research article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. PDK4 stops carbohydrate metabolism in order to preserve the glucose that animals have stored from their last meal. PTL is responsible for starting up the mechanism to convert fat into usable energy at low body temperatures.

    Consuming 0.20.3% of their body mass per day, hibernators can survive until spring. And the bigger their fat stores, the greater their chances of getting through the winter for example, a bear is able to

    wIK

    Imed

    IA

    Nerve cell endings in the brains of ground squirrels change during hibernation.

    A technique of cooling the brain is helping newborns at risk to avoid permanent brain damage.

    iStO

    CK

  • >>

    Cosmos 46 www.cosmosmagazine.com 8180 www.cosmosmagazine.com Cosmos 46

    bone breakdown do happen but bears have developed the biological mechanism to [keep] bone production constant. In a 2008 review published in the American Journal of Physiology, he and his colleagues found this is due to the high levels of two chemical compounds, osteocalcin and parathyroid hormone, or PTH.

    Just as in humans, bear bones release minerals during periods of inactivity. But instead of excreting calcium, PTH induces its re-absorption by the kidneys and puts it back in bears skeletons, Donahue says. Osteocalcin is a protein normally excreted in the urine. Since bears do not urinate during hibernation, osteocalcin levels increase and contribute to bone mineralisation and building.

    HUMAN PARATHYROID hormone may not be as efficient as bears at recycling minerals back into bones. Donahue and his team are currently studying the hormones bone-sparing power. We have sequenced the gene for bear PTH, and used it to produce a synthetic form of bear PTH and reverse bone loss in rodent models of osteoporosis, says Donahue.

    Donohues team used rats with surgically removed ovaries, which simulates menopause, making their bones develop osteoporosis and become spongy. Next,

    they were injected with either human or bear PTH and had their bone density measured and compared over several weeks. Bones became stronger in the rats that had received the bear PTH. These results might lead to more effective treatments for osteoporosis in post-menopausal women, who are susceptible to bone loss.

    Another hibernating animal that has caught scientists attention is the arctic ground squirrel, Spermophilus parryii. From early September to late April this small, orange and white squirrel cools its body to a core temperature of -2.9C, which is the lowest known naturally occurring temperature in mammals. At the

    same time, however, it keeps its brain, and other parts of the body involved in regulating and maintaining energy metabolism, above zero.

    As Andrews explains, these are physiological feats that non-hibernating animals, including humans, could never survive. A human will go hypothermic in [temperatures] around 32C. The chemical reactions in our bodies just cant take place, he says. Yet the cunning arctic ground squirrel is not only able to cool and heat up its body each year during hibernation, every week or so, the squirrel stirs, shivers without waking, re-warms to 37C for about

    Animals around the world have evolved ingenious ways to survive environmental extremes, reports Ola Jachtorowicz.

    COMMON POORWILLSCIENTIFIC NAME Phalaenoptilus nuttaliLOCATION Western North AmericaHIBERNATES FOR up to 3 monthsThe only bird known to hibernate, the poorwill doesnt build a nest but sits in piles of rocks or clumps of grass, concealed by its camouflage plumage. The Native American Hopi people called it Hlchoko or the sleeping one.

    AMERICAN bLACK bEARSCIENTIFIC NAME Ursus americanusLOCATION North AmericaHIBERNATES FOR 58 monthsConsidered highly efficient hibernators or super-hibernators, black bears recycle their waste into proteins, which become part of

    their muscles. Females wake long enough to birth cubs and lick them clean before resuming their slumber, while the cubs remain awake, suckling their mother and waiting for spring.

    RED-EARED SLIDERSCIENTIFIC NAME Trachemys scripta elegansLOCATION Southern U.S. BRUMATES FOR 67 months Called sliders for their ability to quickly evade predators by slipping off rocks and logs and into the water, these turtles brumate (a reptilian version of hibernation) through winter at the bottoms of ponds and shallow lakes, occasionally rising for air.

    MONITO DEL MONTESCIENTIFIC NAME Dromiciops gliroidesLOCATION South AmericaHIBERNATES FOR up to 4 monthsA living fossil, the monito del monte (little mountain monkey) is ancestral to Australian marsupials. It spends its life in trees and bamboos of Andean temperate rainforests, hibernating in well-hidden, spherical, water-resistant nests lined with moss or grass.

    known to aestivate, the heatwave equivalent of winter hibernation holes up in tree trunks in groups of four to five. Surviving on fat stored in its tail, the fat-tailed dwarf lemur becomes dormant to combat drought, its body temperature varying with the outside temperature reaching up to 30C.

    bLACK ROCKCODSCIENTIFIC NAME Notothenia coriicepsLOCATION Ocean around AntarcticaHIBERNATES FOR 68 monthsIn 2008, it became the first fish identified to change its metabolic activity as part of an annual cycle, becoming 20 times less active. Its dormancy pattern isnt due to water temperature, but most likely to lack of light during Antarcticas long winter. It waits out the darkness before resuming hunting prey.

    MOUNTAIN PYGMY POSSUMSCIENTIFIC NAME Burramys parvusLOCATION AustraliaHIBERNATES FOR 57 monthsThe critically endangered pygmy possum burrows deep into snow and boulder crevices in winter. Native to Australias alpine regions and only 11cm long, it is the countrys only hibernating marsupial.

    >>

    EUROPEAN HEDGEHOGSCIENTIFIC NAME Erinaceus europaeus

    LOCATION Western EuropeHIBERNATES FOR 57 months

    These hedgehogs build nests in which to hibernate when the temperature drops below 16C. While hibernating, they will still bristle (erect their spines) when touched or exposed to noise.

    NORTHERN bATSCIENTIFIC NAME Eptesicus nilssoniiLOCATION Northern Europe to JapanHIBERNATES FOR 48 months Groups of two to four choose underground spaces such as caves, mines, cellars and bunkers. They can hibernate in conditions below 0C, which benefits them energetically and enables them to hibernate for up to eight months in a row.

    FAT-TAILED DWARF LEMURSCIENTIFIC NAME Cheirogaleus mediusLOCATION MadagascarAESTIvATES FOR 68 monthsThis primate the only tropical mammal

    get

    ty

    wIK

    Imed

    IA

    wIK

    Imed

    IA

    get

    ty

    jIll

    zA

    mz

    Ow

    wIK

    Imed

    IAw

    IKIm

    edIA

    wIK

    Imed

    IA

    get

    ty

    IStO

    CK

    Bears bodies continue to produce bone (shown here) during hibernation. Instead of excreting minerals released from bones as would normally happen during a period of non-activity, the bears bodies instead re-absorb them into the kidneys with the help of two chemical compounds. Research into this process could lead to breakthroughs in the treatment of osteoporosis in humans.

    Scientists in Pittsburgh revived

    dogs after three hours of clinical

    death no heartbeat, no breathing and no

    brain activity.

    Set

    H d

    On

    AH

    ue

  • >>

    HalfPage Hor Cosmos_FINAL.indd 1 18/07/12 3:43 PM

    82 www.cosmosmagazine.com Cosmos 46

    1220 hours, then goes into hibernation again without any tissue damage.

    SCIENTISTS HAVE identified several compounds that may explain how this is possible. Andrews has found that PDK4 and PTL, the same enzymes that switch over metabolism, help cardiac physiology to work at low temperatures. PTL is a protein produced in the human pancreas but we have found it in the squirrels heart. The reason is that it works very well in the cold. It can burn fat in the cold and allow the heart to continue beating.

    In 2007, Tom Scanlan, a biologist now at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon, published research in Stroke describing how a derivative of thyroxine, a thyroid hormone, rapidly lowers body temperature and slows heart rate when injected into rodents. Six to eight hours after injection, they resumed normal core body temperature and behaviour. The team has produced several similar synthetic substances that show the same or even more potent induction of hypothermia. Meanwhile, in 2006 in Nature, Cheng Chi Lee, a molecular biologist at the University of Texas in Houston, with his colleagues showed that the 5-AMP (five-prime adenosine monophosphate) molecule also lowers mices core body temperature and makes animals enter hibernation.

    Five-prime AMP is part of a cellular process called oxidative phosphorylation, which is the bodys power-generating apparatus. Cells need oxygen to make adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, the primary fuel of life. As the organisms body cools, it needs less oxygen, oxidative phosphorylation slows down or stops, and the animal simply rests. This process happens not only in mice, but also in squirrels and other hibernating mammals. Perhaps even in humans.

    In October 2006, the first known case of a human going into hibernation was described. After slipping and breaking his pelvis, a 35-year-old hiker survived 24 days in a mountain forest without food or water. Mitsutaka Uchikoshi was found unconscious on Rokko Mountain in Japan, with a body temperature close to 22C. He had a weak pulse and was suffering blood loss. After referral to a hospital, he made a full recovery. His physicians believed his

    survival was a result of a cold-induced state similar to hibernation, as the mountain temperature dropped as low as 10C.

    I am convinced there is some kind of connection between hibernators and human survivors, people who have cheated death after being submerged in icy water, or buried in snow, without oxygen, for hours, says Andrews.

    A LACK OF OxYGEN often kills people who have had a cardiac arrest or a stroke. About five years ago, doctors began to experiment with therapies to cool down, even temporarily, such patients bodies and reduce their need for oxygen. The results have been nothing short of extraordinary.

    In 2005, biochemist Mark Roth made headline news worldwide when Science published his teams results showing that exposing mice to tiny doses of hydrogen sulphide H2S induced a state of reversible hibernation. H2S is a foul-smelling, corrosive, flammable and deadly gas, produced naturally in tiny amounts in the bodies of humans and other animals. In

    humans, it enables core temperature to stay uniform regardless of whether we are in the Arctic or the Caribbean.

    At his lab at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle, Washington, Roth placed mice inside tanks from which nearly all of the oxygen had been removed and made them breathe 80 parts per million of H2S. Their core body temperature

    plunged 20C within minutes, their heart rate declined more than 50% and their metabolic rate tumbled. The animals stayed in suspended animation for up to six hours before the oxygen supply was turned back on. Surprisingly, they woke up with no brain damage.

    H2S seems to slow, or even stop, oxidative phosphorylation, the process by which cells produce energy. Roths experiment showed that mice can survive when exposed to low oxygen concentrations that would otherwise be lethal to them. He is also one of a number of researchers who are investigating the use of suspended animation in radical medical therapies.

    In February 2008, anaesthetist Patrick Kochanek of the Safar Centre for Resuscitation Research at the University of Pittsburgh at Titusville, Pennsylvania, and his colleagues published a paper in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism describing how he had revived dogs after three hours of clinical death

    no heartbeat, no breathing and no brain activity. While Roths team focusses on slowing the metabolic rate and the temperature comes down as a by-product, Kochaneks team cooled the body in order to slow down the metabolic rate. They drained the dogs blood and replaced it with a solution of low-temperature glucose, dissolved oxygen and saline. The dogs came back to life after a blood transfusion and an electric shock to the heart, though a few suffered minor brain damage. Using a similar approach, a group of trauma surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston reported successful results in several experiments with Yorkshire pigs.

    THE NExT STEP IS to test suspended animation in humans. When a person has severe trauma and massive blood loss, oxygen supply also falls. When deprived of oxygen, an average person suffers brain damage within five minutes and dies 15 minutes later. But restoring blood flow is dangerous too. The influx of oxygen-rich blood produces so-called reactive oxygen

    molecules that can damage proteins and DNA and lead to cell death, contributing to tissue damage or organ failure.

    Later in 2012, surgeon Samuel Tisherman and his team, also at Safar Centre in Pittsburgh, will start a clinical trial to see if they can rescue patients who have suffered cardiac arrest due to massive bleeding, by chilling them to nearly 10C.

    Most of the time people with severe trauma and blood loss dont survive, says Tisherman. Rapid cooling might be able to sustain the patient, particularly the brain, long enough to buy time for surgeons to find the source of blood loss, repair the wound and restore heartbeat.

    In the trial, body temperature will be lowered by administering up to 20 litres of cold fluid through a large tube placed into the aorta, the largest artery in the body. In the preclinical studies we have done in animals, we have cooled down the body in

    Some bears can double their body weight during summer in preparation for winter hibernation.

    The spin-off is a deeper understanding of controversial medical technologies that can slow patients respiration to almost zero

    and bring them back from near death.

    just 15 minutes this way, adds Tisherman. A heartlung bypass machine will be used to restore blood circulation and oxygenation as part of the resuscitation process.

    Extreme cooling therapy expanding across hospitals even before scientists and doctors completely understand how it works could also help treat some type of poisonings, for which blood circulation

    must be stopped. The power of H2S to induce hypothermia is also being tested in patients with acute lung injury, multiple organ failure and some inflammatory diseases.

    However, failure to reproduce the effects seen in mice in larger animals (such as sheep), as well as safety concerns, mean further research is needed.

    Andrews remains optimistic. In the future maybe we will have the ability to create transgenic hibernators, as we now create transgenic mice, to better understand how hibernation works.

    Zuberoa Marcos is a barcelona-based science writer and

    scientific director of a weekly tV magazine at the Spanish

    broadcasting Corporation.

    These are physiological feats that humans could never survive.

    Ole

    fr

    Ob

    ert


Recommended