Hibernating bears may hold the secret to preventing blood clots, thanks to their ability to maintain low levels of a key protein in their blood. Researchers from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and other institutions have published a study in Science that investigates this phenomenon, hoping that their findings can be applied to future human medications.
The study examined blood samples from 13 wild brown bears during their hibernation and compared them to samples taken in the summer when the bears were more active.
The researchers focused on platelets, the blood components responsible for clotting. They found that hibernating bears’ platelets were less likely to clump together, and when they did clot, they did so more slowly.
The key difference between the bears’ winter and summer blood samples was the levels of a protein called heat shock protein 47 (HSP47) found in platelets.
Hibernating bears had approximately one-fiftieth of the amount of HSP47 found in active bears. HSP47 attaches to collagen, a protein that helps platelets stick together and form a clot.
In addition to bears, the researchers found that pigs who had recently given birth and people with spinal cord injuries also had lower HSP47 levels.
These findings suggest that HSP47 may be a potential target for medications to prevent blood clots, also known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
DVT can be dangerous, as it may lead to life-threatening complications like pulmonary embolism, which occurs when a part of the clot breaks off and travels to the lungs, blocking blood flow.
While more research is needed to better understand how the human body specifically regulates HSP47, this study presents a promising starting point for developing innovative treatments.
As we continue to learn from nature’s incredible adaptations, let’s also take a moment to appreciate the interconnectedness of our world and the importance of protecting our planet and its diverse inhabitants.
This article by Josie Fu was first published by OneGreenPLanet on 22 May 2023.
What you can do
Support ‘Fighting for Wildlife’ by donating as little as $1 – It only takes a minute. Thank you.
Fighting for Wildlife supports approved wildlife conservation organizations, which spend at least 80 percent of the money they raise on actual fieldwork, rather than administration and fundraising. When making a donation you can designate for which type of initiative it should be used – wildlife, oceans, forests or climate.