Hibernation delays biological aging in bats

big brown bat

picture: Nice brown bats can reside as much as 19 years.
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Credit score: Brock and Sherri Fenton

The most typical bat in the US, the nice brown bat, has an unusually lengthy lifespan of as much as 19 years. A brand new research led by researchers on the College of Maryland identifies one of many secrets and techniques to this bat’s distinctive longevity: hibernation.

“Hibernation has allowed bats, and presumably different animals, to remain in northern or southern areas the place there isn’t a meals within the winter,” mentioned the research’s lead writer, UMD biology professor Gerald Wilkinson. “Hibernators are likely to outlast migrants. We knew that, however we did not know if we might detect adjustments in epigenetic age because of hibernation.”

The researchers decided that hibernating throughout one winter extends an incredible brown bat’s epigenetic clock, a organic marker of getting older, by three-quarters of a yr. The research, revealed within the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society Bin Scientists from McMaster College and the College of Waterloo, each in Ontario, Canada, additionally participated on August 10, 2022.

They analyzed small tissue samples taken from the wings of 20 giant brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) throughout two durations: in winter once they hibernate and in summer time when they’re lively. The bats, saved in a analysis colony at McMaster College, ranged in age from lower than 1 yr to only over 10 years.

As soon as the samples had been collected, the researchers measured adjustments in DNA methylation, a organic course of related to gene regulation, between samples taken from the identical animal during times of exercise and hibernation. They discovered that DNA methylation adjustments occurred at sure websites within the bat genome, and these websites gave the impression to be affecting metabolism throughout hibernation.

“It is fairly clear that the websites that lower methylation within the winter are those that appear to have an lively impact,” Wilkinson mentioned. “Most of the genes closest to them are recognized to be concerned in regulating metabolism, so presumably they hold metabolism down.”

A few of these genes are the identical ones that Wilkinson and different researchers recognized as “longevity genes” in a earlier research. Wilkinson mentioned there’s vital overlap between hibernation genes and longevity genes, additional highlighting the hyperlink between hibernation and longer life.

The above research additionally established the primary epigenetic clock for bats, able to precisely predicting the age of any bat within the wild. That clock was utilized to this newest research, permitting the researchers to indicate that hibernation reduces a bat’s epigenetic age in comparison with an animal of the identical age that does not hibernate.

Research like this one assist clarify why bats have longer lifespans than anticipated for a small mouse-sized mammal. Nonetheless, in addition they increase new questions.

“We nonetheless do not actually perceive why some bats can reside a very long time and others cannot,” Wilkinson mentioned. “We now have proven that long-lived people share the power to hibernate or go into torpor incessantly. That appears to be a corollary, but it surely’s not sufficient as a result of hibernating rodents do not reside 20 years.”

Wilkinson mentioned he’s planning a follow-up research to match epigenetic getting older in nice brown bats in Canada, the place they hibernate, with the identical species in Florida, the place they do not hibernate. By doing so, Wilkinson hopes to get a good clearer image of the function hibernation performs in extending lifespan.


Along with Wilkinson, UMD co-authors on the research embody Isabel Sullivan (MS ’21, marine estuarine environmental sciences) and Danielle Adams (Ph.D. ’19, organic sciences).

This analysis was supported by the American Society of Mammalogists; SigmaXi; the College of Maryland Graduate Scholar Authorities; the College of Informatics, Mathematical and Pure Sciences; the Pure Sciences and Engineering Analysis Council of Canada (NSERC) (Discovery Grant No. RGPIN-2020-06906) and an NSERC Graduate Fellowship. This story doesn’t essentially mirror the views of those organizations.

The article, titled “Nice brown bats expertise slower epigenetic getting older throughout hibernation,” was revealed in Proceedings of the Royal Society B on August 10, 2022.

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