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Keywords:

  • apolipoproteins;
  • cholesterol;
  • hibernation physiology;
  • triglycerides

Abstract

Hibernation is an extreme physiological challenge for the brown bear (Ursus arctos) in which metabolism is based mainly on lipids. The study objective was to compare plasma lipids in hibernating and active free-ranging brown bears and relate them to arterial histopathology. Blood was drawn from seven immobilized free-ranging brown bears (three females, 2–3 years old) during hibernation in February and from the same bears while active in June and analyzed by enzymatic and automated hematology methods within 48 hours of sampling. Left anterior descending coronary arteries and aortic arches from 12 bears (six females, 1.5–12 years old) killed in hunting were examined by histopathology. Total plasma cholesterol decreased from hibernation to the active period (11.08 ± 1.04 mmol/L vs. 7.89 ± 1.96 mmol/L, P= 0.0028) as did triglyceride (3.16 ± 0.62 mmol/L vs. 1.44 ± 0.27 mmol/L, P= 0.00012) and LDL cholesterol (4.30 ± 0.71 mmol/L vs. 2.02 ± 1.03 mmol/L, P= 0.0075), whereas HDL cholesterol was unchanged. No atherosclerosis, fatty streaks, foam cell infiltration, or inflammation were seen in any arterial samples. Brown bears tolerate elevated cholesterol levels, obesity, physical inactivity, and circulatory slow flow during hibernation without signs of ­atherosclerosis. This species might serve as a reverse translational model for atherosclerosis resistance. Clin Trans Sci 2012; Volume 5: 269–272