Research News & Features

Health and Life Science

Contact: Lynne Nelson, Associate Professor of Cardiology, Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital, 509-335-0789,

Key To Human Heart Disease Could Lie With Hibernating Grizzly Bears

PULLMAN, Wash. - Washington State University's Bear Center is currently looking at hibernation and how a bear can survive with a very low heart rate for an extended period of time.
"Humans or other animals could not do what the bears do in hibernation without developing heart failure," said Dr. Lynne Nelson, associate professor of Cardiology.  "A bear's heart rate is 80-90 beats per minute when active, but when hibernating its heart rate drops to 15-18 beats per minute."
"You can see the blood settling in the heart, and you can see actual… what looks like the beginning of clot formation, but they don't actually form clots," Nelson said.
The echocardiograms performed on the bears helps Nelson image the heart.  It also provides her with other information such as cardiac calculations, heart rate and how much blood the heart is pumping.
When asked about their progress Nelson said, "It's slow but ongoing, these animals only do what you need them to do once every year, during the winter."
Nelson said they will be finishing up a portion of the research this year and then hope to move on to clinical type trials.

Learn more about the Bear Center visit
View a video of the bear research at

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