UCL News


UCL in the News: Polar bears and osteoporosis

13 March 2008

Fiona Macrae, 'Daily Mail'  Three months before giving birth, the pregnant polar bear retreats to a maternity den dug deep in a snow drift.

During her six-month confinement, the bear does not eat or drink and barely moves. But despite this, her bones remain strong - while large amounts of new bone are made.

This remarkable ability to stop her bones from wasting away could help tackle osteoporosis, scientists believe. …

Experts from the Royal Veterinary College, in Hertfordshire, and UCL have been monitoring 21 pregnant bears in Hudson Bay, Canada. …

Blood samples showed that they ratchet up bone production before going into hibernation.

Renewal of bone remains high during hibernation - despite the drain on the body of pregnancy, labour and suckling. …

However, in the journal Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, the researchers said: "The wild pregnant female polar bear has evolved a unique physiological mechanism of protection against bone loss during hibernation."