The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 18 No. 7 • November 2015

A Scientist Complains of the Difficulty of Getting Funding for Unusual Phenomena for Which There is No Hypothesis

by Sandy Shaw & Durk Pearson

An article by Steven McKnight, the President of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (which publishes The Journal Of Biological Chemistry and The Journal of Lipid Chemistry) in the June/July 2015 issue of ASBMB TODAY (Vol. 14 No. 6, pp. 2-3) deplores the difficulty in getting funding to study very interesting scientific puzzles for which there is no hypothesis. (Such research may be an important way of developing data to suggest hypotheses.)

He pointed to a particular puzzle as an example. He noted that “[d]uring hibernation, the core body temperature of ground squirrels goes from 37 degrees C down to 4-5 degrees C. Perplexingly, with robust periodicity, hibernating ground squirrels warm back up to 37degrees C around once every 10 days [reference provided]. These brief periods of warming are called interbout arousals. What is the utility to the hibernating ground squirrel to periodically warm up for about a day?”

Sandy has a suggestion for a possible reason for the warming. She suggests that it is to activate neurons (possibly of the serotonergic, cholinergic, and adrenergic nervous systems) that are known to die if not activated for a certain period of time. Durk suggests that one way to test this is to see if hibernating bears also have interbout arousals about every 10 days, similarly to the squirrels. Another question is whether the neurons die in ten days or less if they remain inactivated.

Durk suggests that the warming (the arousal from hibernation) may be needed for effective immune system function. He notes that snakes seek greater heat when ill, and will become infected with pathogens if this increased warmth is unavailable.

Incidentally, we agree with Dr. McKnight that it is a shame that more far reaching research that looks for hypotheses rather than investigates hypotheses you already have is hard to get funding for. But this is perhaps a more risky way of spending government money than when you have already advanced to having a hypothesis based on available data. Bureaucracies do not tend to engage in risk when it is so much safer to put money into research that is more fully developed. Look to entrepreneurs in the private sector for investment in risky new science and technology.

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