Aging in most animals is an inevitable process that causes or is a result of physiological, biochemical, and molecular changes in the body, and has a strong influence on an organism's lifespan. Although advancement in medicine has allowed humans to live longer, the prevalence of age-associated medical complications is continuously burdening older adults worldwide. Current animal models used in research to study aging have provided novel information that has helped investigators understand the aging process; however, these models are limiting. Aging is a complex process that is regulated at multiple biological levels, and while a single manipulation in these models can provide information on a process, it is not enough to understand the global regulation of aging. Some mammalian hibernators live up to 9.8-times higher than their expected average lifespan, and new research attributes this increase to their ability to hibernate. A common theme amongst these mammalian hibernators is their ability to greatly reduce their metabolic rate to a fraction of their normal rate and initiate cytoprotective responses that enable their survival. Metabolic rate depression is strictly regulated at different biological levels in order to enable the animal to not only survive, but to also do so by relying mainly on their limited internal fuels. As such, understanding both the global and specific regulatory mechanisms used to promote survival during hibernation could, in theory, allow investigators to have a better understanding of the aging process. This can also allow pharmaceutical industries to find therapeutics that could delay or reverse age-associated medical complications and promote healthy aging and longevity in humans.

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Experimental Gerontology
Department of Biology

Al-attar, R. (Rasha), & Storey, K. (2020). Suspended in time: Molecular responses to hibernation also promote longevity. Experimental Gerontology (Vol. 134). doi:10.1016/j.exger.2020.110889