"The finding has more than passing biological interest because understanding how tissues cope with the cardiovascular and oxidative stresses associated with hibernation or torpor may have direct clinical relevance," he added.
For example, he wrote, such a protective program might be exploited in transplant and vascular surgery. Scientists have suggested that hibernation therapy might effectively preserve donor organs for weeks or months.
Hibernation has also been found to protect animals from a wide range of potential threats, from muscle disuse to cancer, the study authors said. Therefore, hibernation therapy might confer protective effects in other clinical arenas as well.
The new findings could lead to "potential pharmacological applications in humans to the prevention of lethal diseases, such as hypothermia, ischemia, muscle atrophy, bacterial infection, and tumorigenesis, which has been observed during hibernation in hibernators," the researchers said.
"These studies may further stimulate the exploration of new techniques for cryosurgery of the heart and brain, as well as the development of hypothermia treatment that is effective for preventing brain ischemic damage." In cryosurgery, physicians use extreme cold to destroy abnormal tissue, such as cancerous tumors.