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Hibernation Prevents Aging


The phoenix is a bird in Egyptian mythology that lived in the desert for 500 years. Like the phoenix, hibernating animals have a mechanism for hindering the aging process, which can be transferred to other animal species. This discovery is made by biophysicists from Moscow Region supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research.

The research team from the Institute of Cell Biophysics and Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Biophysics of Russian Academy of Sciences has obtained exciting results in the prevention of rats’ aging by treating them with the thymus cells from longtailed Siberian sousliks (also known as Alaskan ground squirrels).

Thymus is a small glandular organ that is situated behind the top of the breastbone and plays a key role in lymphocyte synthesis and immune response. As a result of the aging process, the thymus undergoes involution ¯ a progressive decline or degeneration of normal physiological functioning. Involution begins with a rapid degradation of lymphoid tissue of the thymus, which is followed by a decrease in the number of lymphocytes in the blood. A lack of lymphocytes causes weakening of the immune system. Generally, these processes are inevitable and irreversible, but there are exceptions to the rule, particularly, in hibernating mammals. Lymphoid tissue of their thymus dies every winter to get renewed when animals wake up in spring. The Russian researchers got interested in the cyclic renovation of the thymus and tried to slow down the aging-caused degeneration of this gland in other mammalian species. In the long run the biophysicists expect to apply their experience in human senility prevention, but now they are trying to give a longer life to mere rats.

Hibernating mammals have a unique ability to maintain the cyclic renovation of the thymus throughout their life. Understanding the mechanism of this process can be very beneficial for medicine, and this is an on-going research of the Russian biochemists.

Sergey Komarov | alfa
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