Hibernating bears have remarkable wound healing capabilities, finds Minnesota researchers

Categories: Animals, Science
black bear.jpg
The bodies of hibernating bears pretty much shut down, yet their wounds heal double time.
A study by University of Minnesota researchers found that black bears have amazing healing capabilities during hibernation.

Scientists from the U of M, University of Wyoming, and Minnesota DNR monitored 1,000 black bears in northern Minnesota for 25 years. They found many examples of bears settling down in their dens for the winter with wounds from hunters or bite marks from other animals, only to emerge months later with those wounds remarkably healed.

Given that hibernating bears have extremely low body temperatures, heart rates, and slow metabolisms, researchers were surprised to discover that they seem to heal faster during winter than during times of the year when they're more active.

From the paper:
black bear cubs.jpg
Okay, it's not totally on topic, but who knew little bears could be so cute?
We identified a few animals each year with injuries resulting from gunshots or arrows from hunters; bite marks from other bears or predators. These wounds were considered to have been incurred some time before the bears denned, and were often infected or inflamed...in early winter. Yet typically, when we revisited bears in their dens a few months later, most wounds had completely resolved whether or not we [cleaned them], sutured the areas or administered antibiotics.
The finding is surprising, but researchers noted that bears have other remarkable adaptations to hibernation, such as not losing muscle or bone mass despite lounging around their den for four months at a time.

Now that they've observed hibernating bears' low-metabolism healing capacity, researchers hope to understand how it works. They believe the mechanism could aid in the development of treatments for human skin ailments in malnourished, hypothermic, diabetic, and elderly patients.

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