Thursday, June 28, 2012

Arctic Ground Squirrels May Help Cure Brain Disease!

The arctic ground squirrel is a truly amazing animal. In some parts of its range these squirrels hibernate for seven months, and their body temperatures can reach as low as 27 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the lowest temperature recorded for any mammal. Now scientists believe that the arctic ground squirrel's winter sleeping habits may hold some clues to treating degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer's.

Who would've thought I'd be so
scientifically significant!

What interests researchers like Brian Barnes at the University of Alaska Fairbanks is how the ground squirrels' brains recover from the extremely long, cold period of hibernation. Because of the extended period at such low body temperature, arctic ground squirrels may lose millions of synapses during their slumber. These connections between cells are vital to brain functioning, and a similar loss in humans, such as can happen due to brain disease, is catastrophic and irreversible. But somehow the ground squirrels are able to rebound within two days of waking up, with no loss of cerebral function.

Maybe there's something in these yummy
mushrooms that helps!

Dr. Barnes believes that if scientists can figure out how these squirrels are able to recover from what seems like serious brain damage, then maybe this knowledge can help in the search for treatments for brain disease in humans.


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