By Shanghai killer whale (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I just read an interesting blog from the I Spy Physiology website sponsored by the American Physiological Society which described results from a recent study suggesting that chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) might be a human equivalent to hibernation.
Chronic fatigue syndrome reportedly affects over 2.5 million people in the United States alone. People with this condition have the type of fatigue that does not seem to improve, even with adequate sleep.
By examining the blood of people with and without CFS, researchers have now discovered that those with the condition have less metabolites. What this means is that metabolism is reduced in people with CFS, much like a hibernating animal. Hibernation is typically a state animals enter to conserve energy in order to deal with environmental challenges (like winter) or stressors. For humans, this hibernation-like state may be a way to cope with stress as well since it often begins following an illness or major stress event. Hopefully this new research will help identify potential therapeutic targets to turn off this seemingly protective mechanism in those who suffer from CFS.