Could the dwarf wall be the key to the secret behind hibernation for humans?

that lemur The fat-tailed dwarf, the only primate known to go to sleep, woke up gently in early April in Charlotte, North Carolina, after entering this state for the first time in captivity.

These fat-tailed dwarf walls have become a reality dvale at the Duke Lemur Center, in the United States, and the results of this study may also be important to humans.

Sleep is a fundamental part of life for many species, but it rarely happens when animals are not in the wild.

Usually, captive dwarf walls are given extra food during the summer to help them grow in size, as they normally would in the wild, to allow them to enter a state of suspended torpor (low heart rate and body temperature).

But unlike what happens in natureanimals rarely remain in this state for more than 24 hours.

In 2021, the Duke Lemur Center team decided to take it a step further and see if it was possible for their dwarf leeches to go to sleep in captivity.

Led by Marina Blancostaff built wooden caves and gradually adjusted lighting and temperature to match seasonal changes typical of Madagascar, where the species is native.

If the animals were awake, they were offered food, but otherwise they were left alone.

Our dwarf walls have gone to sleep just like their wild counterparts in western Madagascar. Hibernation is literally in their DNA“, said the researchers.

During the dormancy period, the fat-tailed dwarf walls get an appropriate name and survive … thanks to the fat stored in their tails.

After four monthsmetabolic slowdown“, lemurs are starting to get out of their hibernation thanks to the changing seasons in North Carolina. The animals are between 22 and 35% lighter than when they started the process, and in perfect health.

We managed to copy their wild relationships well enough for them to copy their natural patterns“, Explains Erin Ehmke, research director at the Duke Lemur Center.

How can lemud whale research benefit humans?

These squirrel-sized creatures are man’s closest living relatives when it comes to knowing the dormant process.

Now that we know that hibernation can be achieved in captivity, researchers believe we could learn a lot from lemurs, especially to better understand the metabolic disorders seen in humans.

While sleeping mammals can sit still for long periods without affecting their health when humans sit still, atrophy their muscles and blood clots form.

Human sleep can have great medical potential.

Human sleep can have great medical potential, especially for trauma victims with significant physical injuries. Some scientists also believe that it may hold the key to space travel, making manned missions more feasible, for example.

Last year, Kelly Drew, a professor at the University of Alaska’s Institute of Arctic Biology, told the Atlantic: “It is very possible that humans could go to sleep. “

Why do animals not go to sleep in captivity?

In general, species that go to sleep in the wild tend not to do so when living in zoos and sanctuaries. In fact, hibernation usually occurs during cold periods, when the animal lowers its body temperature, lowers its breathing and heart rate, and enters a period of metabolic depression.

In captivity, however, the animals generally live in climate-controlled environments without problems with food shortages, which means that seasonal hibernation is unnecessary.

The researchers built wooden holes in which the animals could go to sleep. – Duke Lemur Center

But fatty tail dwarf walls are unique. They are so far the only known tropical primate and mammal that has hibernation. This is all the more unusual as they are endemic to Madagascar, where the winter period is still tropical with high temperatures.

The species was first discovered to hibernate (or aestheticize, ie hibernation occurs when temperatures are warmer) in 2004, after researchers from Philipps University of Marburg, Germany, published their findings in Nature.

Fat-tailed dwarf walls have been observed dormant in wood holes for seven months of the year despite temperatures above 30 ° C. Kathrin Dausmann, lead author of the 2004 paper, found that the success of hibernation depended on how well the animal’s hole was insulated.

Article translated from English

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