AMHERST, Mass. Chemical analyses by neuroscientist Jerrold Meyer and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are helping to establish hair cortisol concentration (HCC) as an important new biomarker for stress in wild animals facing global climate change.
The technique is demonstrated in the current issue of the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JOVE) where Meyer's lab manager Kendra Rosenberg and neuroscience and behavior graduate student Amanda Hamel provide an annotated illustration of UMass Amherst's standard technique, which they hope will lead to its wider use, including in humans.
Last year, an international research team led by Danish bioscientist Thea Bechshft of Aarhus University reported that fluctuations in climate and ice cover are closely related to stress among polar bears in East Greenland as indicated by levels of the stress hormone cortisol in hair samples measured in Meyer's UMass Amherst laboratory. He says, "We are very hopeful that researchers around the world will discover the usefulness of this type of analysis once they learn that it can now be done with much greater reliably than before."
"Nobody else has done this so far," adds Meyer, a behavioral endocrinologist. "We've not only been one of the key developers of the technique but we have also have worked very hard to demonstrate its reliability and validity. In collaboration with Melinda Novak, chair of the psychology department, we were among the first to show in a major controlled study that a prolonged or major life stress does lead to a demonstrable increase in cortisol in hair. Now we're making the technique available to others and we hope it spurs new collaborations with our lab."
Meyer's assay core laboratory is expert in measuring not only cortisol concentrations, but also progesterone, testosterone and oxytocin levels in a variety of sample types including hair, blood, saliva and cerebrospinal fluid. His
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University of Massachusetts at Amherst