Edible dormice: High food availability slows down cell aging

High food availability during summer time slows down cell aging in dormice and not hibernation. (Photo: Vetmeduni Vienna)

Dormouse  1

Hibernation has long been considered the secret behind the relatively long lifespan of the edible dormouse. A team of researchers from Vetmeduni Vienna has now shown for the first time that high food availability during the active season in summer contributes to a long life. The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

“Telomeres get shorter with every cell division and are therefore considered a biological marker of ageing”, explains Franz Hoelzl from Vetmeduni Vienna’s Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology. Telomeres form protective caps at the ends of the chromosomes to prevent genomic degradation. When the telomeres become too short, cell division is no longer possible and the cell looses the potential to divide and dies. It had previously been assumed that the slowing down of body functions during hibernation was responsible for decreasing the rate of telomere degradation. The edible dormouse’s long torpor-phases would thus contribute to its high life expectancy.

Hibernation does not slow down cellular aging in edible dormice

But Hoelzl and his team demonstrate that hibernation is not the cause for the animals’ slowed down aging processes. Especially the so called arousals, repeated rewarming phases during which hibernaton repeatedly rewarm, led to tremendous shortening of telomeres. Hibernation is hence not responsible for the decreased rate of ageing in dormice. “Unexpectedly, the true ‘fountain of youth’ is high food availability during the active season”,Hoelzl states. Only the group that received surplus food had longer telomere lengths at the end of the study.


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