First published in Fortune Italia, by Dr Antonio Giordano
The peculiar case of bears that, although immobile during hibernation, are very rarely exposed to thromboembolic events is the subject of an intriguing study recently published in the journal Science.
13 bears (Ursus Arctos) were studied by a team of Norwegian and Swedish scientists who observed them from 2019 to 2021, during hibernation and after awakening.
According to tests, their platelet level was 55 times lower during hibernation than when awake. This was due to the fact that during immobility, the quantity of a protein called heat-shock protein, or HSP47, which is essential for clot formation, decreased, leading to reduced platelet aggregation and clotting. Thus, bears benefit from a mechanism that reduces the levels of HSP47 and avoids clot formation.
As a result, this protein may mark a breakthrough in the prevention of thromboembolic events in both humans and animals.
Numerous life-altering instances like hospital stays, incapacitating illnesses, high-risk pregnancies, and desk jobs can force people to immobility. The generation of potent drugs and timely treatments may greatly benefit from a "new" therapeutic strategy inspired by animal biology.
The necessity to prevent thromboembolic problems, during lengthy flights, for example, is one practical application of such a novel study. The discovery of the role of HSP47, which is generally found in connective tissues like bones and cartilage, is also present in platelets and binds to collagen, which can constitute a big step forward.
This mechanism modulates the "trigger" of clots even though it could be also helpful for tissue recovery following injury. A new class of drugs may be developed with the aim of preventing HSP47 protein interaction with clot-initiating cells.
The identification of novel treatments for avoiding thrombotic events, which endanger millions of lives, may be made possible by understanding the molecular process that stops blood clotting in bears.
Accordingly, patients paralyzed due to spinal cord injuries took part in a monitoring study based on the bear study. The goal of the analysis was to measure HSP47 protein levels following several months or years of inactivity. All human samples obtained from these volunteers had low levels of HSP47 protein over the long term, which was consistent with what was seen in bears.
Then, Scientists by testing 12 "healthy" people discovered that there was an elevated thrombotic risk in the short term, which "decreased" over prolonged immobility. Clot occurrence and incidence may be controlled by understanding the causes of these events. These findings and additional research may aid in "controlling the concentration" of HSP47 protein in those with a high risk of thrombosis, hence lowering thromboembolic problems in the general population.
Professor Antonio Giordano, M.D., Ph.D., is the creator and head of the Sbarro Health Research Organization, located at Temple University's College of Science and Technology in Philadelphia. Stay connected with him through his various social media platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram, to receive the latest updates.