Why is hibernation something that bears and squirrels do, but humans don’t? Even more interesting, what’s going on inside a hibernating animal, on a physiological and genetic level, that allows them to survive the winter in a near-comatose state without freezing to death and without ingesting any food or water? And what can we learn about that process that might inform human medicine? Those are the big questions being investigated right now by a four-year-old startup in California called Fauna Bio. And Harry's guests today are two of Fauna Bio’s three founding scientists: Ashley Zehnder and Linda Goodman. They explain how they got interested in hibernation as a possible model for how humans could protect themselves from disease, and how progress in comparative genomics over the last few years has made it possible to start to answer that question at the level of gene and protein interactions. The work is shedding light on a previously neglected area of animal behavior that could yield new insights for treating everything from neurodegenerative diseases to cancer.
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