Research in the Andrews laboratory is directed toward the characterization of genes responsible for the induction and maintenance of hibernation in mammals. Hibernating mammals provide a unique system for identifying molecules that are important in regulating metabolism, body temperature and food intake. In a state of deep hibernation, body temperature is only a few degrees above 0°C, oxygen consumption holds at 1/30 to 1/50 of the aroused condition and heart rate can be as low as 3-10 beats/minute, compared to 300-400 beats/minute when the animal is awake and active. These researchers are currently using RNA-seq to identify genes that are responsible for the physiological characteristics of hibernation in the thirteen-lined ground squirrel, Ictidomys tridecemlineatus.
Hibernation is seen in a wide range of taxa including rodents, carnivores, insectivores, bats, and even primates. Since the majority of species within these groups do not hibernate, it has been proposed that hibernation results from the differential expression of genes common to all mammals rather than the evolution of new genes unique to the hibernating species. Determining the function of gene products involved in hibernation is one of the main goals of this laboratory and has applications in the areas of hypothermia, ischemia/reperfusion injury, cardiac function, and organ preservation.