Menu

Hibernation Helpers

Gut microbes may help regulate the metabolic changes a bear experiences before and during hibernation, scientists show.

Feb 8, 2016
Catherine Offord

WIKIMEDIA, HAPLOCHROMISBrown bears (Ursus arctos) hibernate for up to six months each year. Before hibernating, bears double their fat stores, becoming what scientists call “seasonally obese.” Researchers have now shown that the secret to healthy weight gain may lie in the bears’ gut microbiota, which also vary seasonally. Their findings were published last week (February 4) in Cell Reports.

“We know that the microbiota is very responsive to what we eat. So if a bear eats a lot in the summer and it doesn’t eat in the winter, then there should be an altered microbiota,” study coauthor Fredrik Bäckhed of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, told BBC News. “What we learn from our study is that it appears that the altered microbiome can contribute to the altered adiposity (fattiness).”

The researchers collected fecal samples from wild brown bears in February (when the bears were hibernating) and in June (when the bears were active). They then colonized germ-free mice with microbial samples from each season.

“What we found was that if we colonized the mice with the summer bear microbiota, the mice gained more adiposity compared to if the mouse was colonized with feces from the same bear in the winter,” Bäckhed told BBC News, adding that “although [mice] gained more fat mass, it didn’t impair their glucose tolerance.”

Margaret Morris of the University of New South Wales, who was not involved in the study, told Cosmos that the study is “interesting because it implies the [gut microbes] may actually be driving metabolism in way that could be harnessed.”

Although the results are unlikely to have direct consequences for human medicine, Bäckhed told BBC News that understanding the role of energy-harvesting microbes in summer samples could lead to potential therapeutics for people suffering from malnutrition, such as cancer patients.

He added in a press release that the findings point to an underappreciated role for gut microbiota in bears’ metabolic evolution.

“The restructuring of the microbiota into a more avid energy harvester during summer, which potentially contributes to the increased adiposity gain without impairing glucose metabolism, is quite striking,” Bäckhed said. “The microbiota may be a more important switch for energy metabolism and cold adaptation than previously appreciated.”

November 2018

Intelligent Science

Wrapping our heads around human smarts

Marketplace

Sponsored Product Updates

Preparing Cell Or Tissue Lysates For ELISA Kits

Preparing Cell Or Tissue Lysates For ELISA Kits

RayBiotech manufactures over 2,000 high fully validated, GMP-compliant ELISA kits. In this blog post we explain how to prepare cell or tissue lysates for ELISA Kits.

Norgen Biotek Achieves Illumina Propel Certification as a Service Provider for Next Generation Sequencing

Norgen Biotek Achieves Illumina Propel Certification as a Service Provider for Next Generation Sequencing

Norgen Biotek Corp., an innovative privately held Canadian biotechnology company focusing primarily on nucleic acid and protein stabilization and purification, as well as providing high quality services to the scientific community, today announced that it has become Propel-Certified through Illumina as a Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) service provider.

Slice® Safety Cutters for Lab Work

Slice® Safety Cutters for Lab Work

Slice cutting tools—which feature our patent-pending safety blades—meet many lab-specific requirements. Our scalpels and craft knives are well suited for delicate work, and our utility knives are good for general use.

The Lab of the Future: Alinity Poised to Reinvent Clinical Diagnostic Testing and Help Improve Healthcare

The Lab of the Future: Alinity Poised to Reinvent Clinical Diagnostic Testing and Help Improve Healthcare

Every minute counts when waiting for accurate diagnostic test results to guide critical care decisions, making today's clinical lab more important than ever. In fact, nearly 70 percent of critical care decisions are driven by a diagnostic test.