BEAR WEEK: Researchers look to hibernating bears for advancements in human medicine

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A team of researchers from the Minnesota DNR and University of Minnesota Visible Heart Lab study a hibernating black bear in an attempt to produce human medical advancements.

Researchers from the Department of Natural Resources and the University of Minnesota's Visible Heart Lab are looking to hibernating bears for the next advancements in human medical care.

Bears have an almost superhuman ability to stave off physical decline while remaining immobile for months at a time--something humans are comparably quite bad at. 

"If you had a patient in the intensive care unit for two to three weeks, they can be in a hypercardibolic state and lose 50 percent of their muscle mass in that period of time," said Paul Iaizzo, a University of Minnesota Physiologist in the Department of Surgery. "These bears aren't losing anything. Just body fat."

Fox 9's Randy Meier joined Iaizzo and a team of researchers in Minnesota's northwoods as they tranquilize and study a hibernating black bear, using a tiny device implanted on the animal's chest. The bear is also monitored all winter through wires installed in its den, including heart rate, temperature and many other measurements that guage the animal's well-being.

The goal is to discover what factors are being released by the bears, then test if those could be applied to human heart transplant patients to achieve a higher rate of success. 

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