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And the beat goes on...: The reliable heartbeat of hibernators
Date:5/7/2013

dy. The researchers were able to show that animals in hibernation have higher amounts of LA in their hearts. In turn, these fatty acids activate a specific calcium pump (SERCA), thus ensuring proper cardiac contractions and the survival of hibernators at low body temperatures. A rhythmic heartbeat is dependent upon the activity of this pump. In non-hibernating animals, low temperatures can hamper the operation of the pump and lead to severe cardiac arrhythmias that can potentially lead to cardiac arrest due to an overload of calcium in the heart. High levels of LA in hibernating animals ensure a sufficiently quick calcium transport, enabling the heart to keep beating at regular intervals.

Nutrition affects hibernation

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are essential nutrients and must be obtained from food. Although the body regulates the level of fatty acids in each tissue, food supply plays an important role for hibernating animals. It is known, for instance, that wild marmots actively select plants that contain high amounts of omega-6 fatty acids during the fall to prepare for hibernation. In the present study, all animals were fed continuously with the same amounts of various fatty acids. Nevertheless, the measured amounts in the heart tissue varied, according to the physiological stage of the hamsters. As Giroud explains, "The fact that these effects of fatty acids on the calcium pump in the heart and hence on temperatures during hibernation can be detected even in animals fed identical food lead us to think that the effects of the cardiac fatty acid composition may be even stronger in free-living hibernators exposed to higher variability in food resources, or with limited access to essential fatty acids".


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Contact: Sylvain Giroud
Sylvain.Giroud@vetmeduni.ac.at
43-148-909-15135
University of Veterinary Medicine -- Vienna
Source:Eurekalert

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