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Current Research

Examining seasonal variation in insulin sensitivity of adipose tissue in brown bears

Bears undergo seasonal transitions in insulin sensitivity from insulin sensitive in the active season to insulin resistant during hibernation, yet bears do not appear to experience the health problems typically associated with insulin resistance and Type II Diabetes in humans. Therefore, we aim to answer the question: have bears evolved a mechanism(s) to mitigate the detrimental effects normally associated with insulin resistance and/or obesity?

Clarifying the relationships between adipose function, adipose-derived hormones, and the control of food intake in grizzly bears

Bears are able to acquire massive amounts of fat and remain completely healthy, which may shed light on human obesity-related pathologies.

Studying the temporal organization of physiology in bears: daily (circadian) rhythms

We are examining bear tissues under the metabolic extremes of hyperphagia and hibernation. Our goal is to understand the basic mechanisms underlying the adaptations that have evolved to allow bears to survive repeated cycles of both massive weight gain and loss without apparent negative consequences. The information gained could be useful in developing novel treatments for such common problems as obesity and diabetes in humans and companion animals.

Investigating the effects of the type of dietary fat on cardiovascular function and other health parameters of grizzly bears prior to hibernation in the late fall

Even though bears have adapted to eat a high-fat diet, does the type of fat matter? It is thought that bears eating a diet high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) will manifest healthier cardiovascular parameters, similar to the way people do. Preliminary findings from this research suggest that grizzly bears do manifest healthier cardiovascular parameters while eating a diet high in PUFA, and that bears eating diets high in saturated fats exhibit signs of sluggish heart motion and diastolic hypertension.