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Want to live longer and delay the aging process? Try sleeping - a lot. It might not work for you, but it certainly does for the yellow-bellied marmot. According to a new study, after spending two-thirds of the year in hibernation, the marmot emerges at the same biological age as when it entered that state of suspended animation.
Although it has long been known that hibernating appears to offer animals longer lives, this is the first study to examine pre-hibernation and post-hibernation DNA samples to determine the rate of DNA methylation. This type of data can be used to predict an organism's age to a precise degree. The researchers, who followed the marmots in their natural environment, found that hibernation slows DNA methylation to a near standstill.
The scientists say that the more they can understand the process, the more they may be able to adapt it for use in everything from organ transplants – keeping organs viable for longer periods – to lengthy space missions.
More about marmots:
- Marmots live in colonies made up of small families that typically contain one male and several females.
- Typically, marmots spend only about 20 percent of their lives above ground.
- Marmots are ground squirrels, and within their own species there are 15 extant subspecies and four extinct subspecies.