WSU researchers observed changes in bears’ gene expression during hibernation to narrow down eight proteins that activate insulin resistance in their bodies, to develop a way to treat human diabetes.
The research team analyzed changes in bear cell cultures that were exposed to blood serum drawn from grizzly bears housed at the WSU Bear Center. Both the cells and the blood serum were taken from the bears during active, hibernating seasons and from an interrupted hibernation period when researchers fed the bears honey-water.
In the lab, the researchers combined different cell cultures and serums, such as a cell culture from a hibernation season with serum from the active season, to analyze the genetic changes that occurred.
Through all the combinations, it was the serum from the mid-hibernation feeding period that helped the most in identifying the key proteins.
The team plans to investigate how those proteins specifically work to reverse insulin resistance, research which could ultimately lead to the development of ways to prevent or treat human diabetes.