Squirrel guts might hold the secret to making space travel more practical

2022-01-28 4:50:00 AM

A squirrel’s ability to repurpose its own pee to help it build muscle during hibernation might have important implications for the future of space travel, theorizes one Montreal researcher.

Coast2coast, Science

A squirrel’s ability to repurpose its own pee to help it build muscle during hibernation might have important implications for the future of space travel , theorizes one Montreal researcher.

Astronauts doing long stints in space must do a lot of exercising to keep their muscle mass from dwindling away. But hibernating animals can get the chemicals they need from their own urine, a Canadian researcher has found.

In a research paper published Thursday in Science, Matthew Regan, associate professor of animal physiology at the Université de Montréal, confirmed a theory that’s been bouncing around since the ’80s, one that hypothesizes that some animals are able to break down their urea — usually excreted as urine — and use the nitrogen extracted to build other proteins, and from there to build muscle tissue.

It’s why astronauts aboard the International Space Station spend so much of their time exercising — trying to stave off the inevitable muscle atrophy that occurs when spending any significant time in space.The urea nitrogen salvage theory hypothesizes that the hibernating animal has microbes in its gut that let it break down the urea into its component parts, which include nitrogen and carbon. It can then use that nitrogen to build more tissue protein, and thus more muscle.

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Did not see this coming. Scrat knows What kind of squirrel is this? That’s awesome. Wait, what?! That, my friends, is a chipmunk. Maybe these folks know better lol. Picture is of a chipmunk!!!! Looks like a chipmonk MensHealthMag NBCOlympics ... 🥤🍼🍵☕🍺🍹🥃 ... nun ja, mit dieser Frage habe ich mich bis heute noch nicht befasst ... aber die Natur ist so kreativ und vielfältig wie ... die Welt der ... Wissenschaft, Religionen, Medizin (Do_ping_pong) ?🏓💉💉💉💉💉💉💉 piss off Piss in

But not for curing Covid-19, just to be clear. lewing99 Is that not a chipmunk? Maybe not. I haven't seen Alvin and his family for quite a while. But it sure doesn't look like any squirrel I've seen before. A Canadian squirrel?

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read JOIN THE CONVERSATION A squirrel’s ability to repurpose its own pee to help it build muscle during hibernation might have important implications for the future of space travel, theorizes one Montreal researcher. In a research paper published Thursday in Science, Matthew Regan, associate professor of animal physiology at the Université de Montréal, confirmed a theory that’s been bouncing around since the ’80s, one that hypothesizes that some animals are able to break down their urea — usually excreted as urine — and use the nitrogen extracted to build other proteins, and from there to build muscle tissue. The discovery is also the subject of a study published in the journal Nature. That “urea nitrogen salvage” theory was first advanced as an answer to the tricky question of how hibernating species — such as bears and squirrels — manage to last the winter on the fat reserves they’ve stored up in their bodies without significantly reducing the mass of their muscles. So hardly anyone knew that the airline pilot could have -- should have -- been on board when SpaceX launched its first tourists into orbit last year. “All hibernating mammals seem to have this amazing ability to preserve their muscle tissue structure and function over time,” says Regan. Spinning around in space, the object sends out a beam of radiation that crosses Earth’s line of sight, and for one minute every twenty minutes it is one of the brightest radio sources in the sky, the release states. “For some species, that is nine months of inactivity and fasting.” Read more: Non-essential Canadians advised to leave Ukraine amid growing tensions with Russia Russia has gathered tens of thousands of troops near its border with Ukraine but has denied that it plans to invade.

For us, even a week or two of bed rest or a week or two in the microgravity environment of space would be enough to see significant muscle atrophy or muscle shrinking. It was kind of spooky for an astronomer because there is nothing known in the sky that does that,” said astrophysicist and team leader Natasha Hurley-Walker in the release. He still hasn't watched the Netflix series on the three-day flight purchased by a tech entrepreneur for himself and three guests last September.” It’s why astronauts aboard the International Space Station spend so much of their time exercising — trying to stave off the inevitable muscle atrophy that occurs when spending any significant time in space. But hibernating animals seem to be able to wake up and shake off a hibernation and go about their business as usual. It’s in our galactic backyard. The 13-lined ground squirrel — the subject of Regan’s research — emerges from hibernation to jump right into its mating season. But it is what it is. How they do that has been a mystery to researchers for years.” Slow transients like a supernova might appear over a few days and then disappear after a few months, whereas fast transients like pulsars flash on and off within milliseconds of seconds.

The urea nitrogen salvage theory hypothesizes that the hibernating animal has microbes in its gut that let it break down the urea into its component parts, which include nitrogen and carbon. It can then use that nitrogen to build more tissue protein, and thus more muscle. The object is very bright, smaller than the sun, and emits highly-polarized radio waves, which suggest it has a very strong magnetic field. Four months later, he figures probably fewer than 50 people know he was the actual winner. This is the theory that Regan’s research with ground squirrels — “a little more tractable to work with than bears” — confirmed. And it’s possible, he says, that those kind of gut microbes might be adaptable to humans. “If it does, there are telescopes across the Southern Hemisphere and even in orbit that can point straight to it,” she said in the release. “The applications this has to space flight or to humans in bed-rest conditions is the fact that under those both of those conditions, there is the chance for significant muscle shrinking or muscle atrophy,” he says. The pair roomed together starting in the late 1990s while attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

“This is similar to what hibernators should theoretically experience during their months of inactivity, especially because they have deprived themselves of a dietary source of nitrogen, which is an important critical building block in protein.” But they don’t, says Regan, so they must be doing something that we’re not doing. To find out what that was, Regan first looked at ruminants — animals like cows and deer — which are known to have a similar process to recycle nitrogen. Despite living on opposite coasts, Hippchen and Sembroski continued to swap space news and champion the cause. From that, his team hypothesized a similar pathway in their squirrels and then designed experiments to look for it. To do that, the squirrels were injected with urea that was “labelled” using isotopes of carbon and nitrogen that are relatively rare in nature, and which the experimenters could detect.

Because of the labelled urea, researchers were able to track the squirrels’ gut microbes breaking it down. Jude Children's Research Hospital. They found high levels of the labelled carbon and nitrogen isotopes in the muscles and livers of their subjects, indicating that the urea was indeed being broken down and recycled to make other tissues. And if squirrels can do it, there’s the possibility that humans might be able to as well. However, gut microbiomes — the collection of microbes in the gut — are highly complex environments, so while Regan’s team has an idea of which bacteria group is responsible for the squirrels’ breakdown of urea, transferring it to humans is not as simple as merely guzzling a probiotic smoothie. With 72,000 entries in the random drawing last February, neither figured he'd win and didn't bother telling the other. “The first thing is to understand exactly how they’re doing it at all those different steps.

And then at that point, then we can have a better idea of how this process might be adapted to humans,” he says. He adds that research conducted in the ’90s has shown that, under certain conditions, humans are capable of recycling the nitrogen in our urea in what appears to be the same way — though at a lesser extent than his ground squirrels. Hippchen was 5-foot-10 and 330 pounds. So, it may be possible that the necessary mechanism for recycling urine for its nitrogen content already exists in the human gut, and it merely needs to be boosted. And that has widespread implications for humans. While Regan is a self-acknowledged huge fan of space travel, he suspects that the future possible benefits of his research will first be seen on the ground. With a September launch planned, the timeline was tight.

“There are literally hundreds of millions of people in the world who are undernourished, and a hallmark of undernourishment is protein deprivation,” he says. “As we age all humans to some extent experience sarcopenia, which is a gradual reduction in muscle mass after the age of 40. “So, if this mechanism is in fact safely translatable to humans, in theory, there are many, many examples of potential benefits to human health. "I was trying to figure how I could drop 80 pounds in six months, which, I mean, it's possible, but it's not the most healthy thing in the world to do," Hippchen said. And I suspect that if this is ever translated to humans, it will first be translated for earthbound reasons.” .