Evolution has produced animals that survive extreme fluctuations in environmental conditions including freezing temperatures, anoxia, desiccating conditions, and prolonged periods without food. For example, the wood frog survives whole-body freezing every winter, arresting all gross physiological functions, but recovers functions upon thawing in the spring. Likewise, many small mammals hibernate for months at a time with minimal metabolic activity, organ perfusion, and movement, yet do not suffer significant muscle atrophy upon arousal. These conditions and the biochemical adaptations employed to deal with them can be viewed as Nature's answer to problems that humans wish to answer, particularly in a biomedical context. This review focuses on recent advances in the field of animal environmental stress adaptation, starting with an emphasis on new areas of research such as epigenetics and microRNA. We then examine new and emerging technologies such as genome editing, novel sequencing applications, and single cell analysis and how these can push us closer to a deeper understanding of biochemical adaptation. Next, evaluate the potential contributions of new high-throughput technologies (e.g. next-generation sequencing, mass spectrometry proteomics) to better understanding the adaptations that support these extreme phenotypes. Concluding, we examine some of the human applications that can be gained from understanding the principles of biochemical adaptation including organ preservation and treatments for conditions such as ischemic stroke and muscle disuse atrophy.

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Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - A Molecular and Integrative Physiology
Department of Biology

Hawkins, L.J. (Liam J.), & Storey, K. (2020). Advances and applications of environmental stress adaptation research. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology - A Molecular and Integrative Physiology, 240. doi:10.1016/j.cbpa.2019.110623