Epigenetic Aging Halts During Hibernation in Marmots

Continuing the recent run of interesting observations arising from the ability to assess epigenetic age, researchers here show that a hibernating species shows no uptick in epigenetic age over the period of hibernation. The metabolism of hibernation has been a topic of minor interest for some years in the context of aging and mechanisms of aging. The metabolic state of hibernation seems favorable in many of the same ways that are observed in states like calorie restriction, but perhaps for distinct reasons.

Yellow-bellied marmots are able to virtually halt the aging process during the seven to eight months they spend hibernating in their underground burrows. The study, the first to analyze the rate of aging among marmots in the wild, shows that this anti-aging phenomenon kicks in once the animals reach 2 years old, their age of sexual maturity. The researchers studied marmot blood samples collected over multiple summer seasons in Colorado, when the animals are active above ground, to build statistical models that allowed them to estimate what occurred during hibernation. They assessed the biological aging of the marmots based on what are known as epigenetic changes - hundreds of chemical modifications that occur to their DNA.

This process, the researchers said, helps explain why the average life span of a yellow-bellied marmot is longer than would be expected from its body weight. Hibernation, an evolutionary adaptation that allows animals to survive in harsh seasonal environments where there is no food and temperatures are very low, is common among smaller mammals, like marmots. The marmots' hibernation alternates between periods of metabolic suppression that last a week or two and shorter periods of increased metabolism, which generally last less than a day. During metabolic suppression, their breathing slows and their body temperature drops dramatically.

All of these hibernation-related conditions - diminished food consumption, low body temperature and reduced metabolism - are known to counter the aging process and promote longevity. This delayed aging is likely to occur in other mammals that hibernate, because the molecular and physiological changes are similar.

Link: https://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/marmots-and-the-secret-to-longevity


If they could induce hibernation in human beings, maybe it would be an alternative to cryostorage. Imagine hibernating away the majority of each year, to extend one's life far enough into the future to capture the medical advances available then.

Posted by: Carl White at March 17th, 2022 8:27 PM

@Carl White
well hibernation slow-down but doesn't stop all the processes

Posted by: Cuberat at March 18th, 2022 3:57 PM

Yes, but it could give someone time to reach that moment of longevity escape velocity.

Posted by: Carl White at March 18th, 2022 9:31 PM

I'm suspicious of the vitamin D family, which purportedly every cell has receptors for. One could think that metabolism is calibrated based on seasonal sunlight as indicating heightened danger and competition, prioritizing survival over longevity. One possible process could be the heightened growth of scar tissue.

Posted by: Troy Tronson at March 20th, 2022 6:05 AM
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