What We Can Learn from Hibernating Bears
They're a 'metabolic marvel,' maintaining bones with calcium from waste
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Feb 18, 2011 1:20 PM CST
Medicine may be able to learn something from the study of hibernating bears.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Scientists have for the first time monitored a bear continuously during a six-month hibernation, and they’ve picked up some fascinating—and perhaps medically useful—facts, NPR reports. In the Alaska study, a bear willingly snoozed out the winter in a big box called a hibernaculum. The bear’s temperature hardly dropped even while its metabolism was lowered by 75%, researchers found.

Bears are “a metabolic marvel,” says a researcher. They “don't eat, drink, urinate or defecate for six or seven months.” Their bodies make water and deal with waste internally, using the calcium in the waste to maintain bone strength. They “also preserve their muscle mass as well as muscle strength,” something humans can’t do if they’re not using their muscles. Medicine could perhaps learn something from studying bears—like how to keep bedridden people healthy, scientists say.