Black bear in tall grass

Black bears are amazing animals who seem to be able to solve some of the health problems humans struggle with. Despite hibernating for months, they do not suffer from venous thromboembolism, bone loss, or muscle loss. They dramatically reduce their kidney function, yet they do not get kidney failure.

By better understanding the biology of bears and the mechanisms they use during hibernation, we may be able to develop new therapies to prevent and cure diseases in humans. To be able to do this, we need biological samples to study. An efficient way, without causing unnecessary harm, is to collect samples from animals that are already being harvested by licensed hunters and animals that are involved in accidents.

What questions are we trying to answer?
The main question we currently try to answer is whether hibernation slows down organ aging, thereby reducing susceptibility to disease. If this is true, we expect bears in the north that hibernate for long times would age more slowly than bears in the south that hibernate for shorter periods, if at all. With the samples we collect we will be able to determine chronological age and biological age and see if they differ, especially in northern bears. If so, perhaps we will be able to find clues about why this happens.

Another question we have is whether bears develop kidney disease at all and if so, what kind? Examining a large number of samples is likely to provide the answer.

What kind of samples do we need?
As the kind of questions that we are trying to answer will change over time, so will the kind of samples we need. For the current studies we need a tooth to determine chronological age, a small piece of the kidney to determine the biological age of the kidney, and a small piece of kidney to look for signs of disease.

Dr. Ron Korstanje in his lab.A resource for the scientific community
The samples we collect can be valuable to other scientists as well. They may study different aspects of bear biology and have other questions they would like to answer. We intend for this project to be a resource and to make samples and data available to the scientific community whenever possible. An inventory of available samples and data will be added to this website in the future, but in the meantime, people can contact me at ron@bear-dna-project.org

How can you help?
No animals will be harmed for the specific goal of obtaining samples for our project. Instead, we collaborate with Wildlife Departments and hunters to collect samples from bears that have already been killed (traffic) or legally harvested.

Hunters that have a permit to harvest a bear can fill out the order form. We will send you a collection kit that contains all the materials and detailed instructions for sample collection. After collecting the samples and filling out the included information sheet, the kit can be sent back by FEDEX (no charge) to us.

Accurate data is important to the success of our studies, and detailed information in the information sheet will help us.

Stay involved
There is an option on the information sheet to include yourself on our email list. We will send regular emails about the developments in our studies and it will allow us to contact you if we have questions about your samples.

Thank you
Participating will be a tremendous help to us and makes you an important part of developing new therapies for human diseases. Thank you.