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Human heart disease key might lie with hibernating bears
Thursday, June 24, 2010
By Adam Wallberg, Intern, WSU News Service
Video by Adam Wallberg, WSU News Service intern
PULLMAN - WSU's Bear Center is currently looking at hibernation and how a bear can survive with a very low heart rate for an extended period of time.
"Humans or other animals could not do what the bears do in hibernation without developing heart failure," said Dr. Lynne Nelson, associate professor of cardiology. "A bear's heart rate is 80-90 beats per minute when active, but when hibernating its heart rate drops to 15-18 beats per minute."
"You can see the blood settling in the heart, and you can see what looks like the beginning of clot formation, but they don't actually form clots," Nelson said.
The echocardiograms performed on the bears helps Nelson image the heart. It also provides her with other information such as cardiac calculations, heart rate and how much blood the heart is pumping.
When asked about their progress Nelson said, "It's slow but ongoing, these animals only do what you need them to do once every year, during the winter."
Nelson said they will be finishing up a portion of the research this year and then hope to move on to clinical type trials.
And to learn more about the Bear Center visit