The University of Minnesota is usually engaged with some pretty cool, groundbreaking research, and this time it’s all about bears. Ok, hearts really, but bears are the key.

Yes, black bears hibernate all winter ‚Äî and their hearts stop and rest 12 to 15 seconds between beats ‚Äî and yet, somehow, they don’t atrophy, faint, or die.

It’s amazing considering that the animals will spend five to seven months without eating, drinking, urinating or defecating. Yet, despite that total lack of nutrition and movement they’ll lose just a fraction of their muscle mass.

Exactly “how” that is medically possible is what these University, Medtronic and DNR scientists are hoping to discover.

Researchers are trying to unveil the unique properties in the bear’s blood plasma that protects the animal’s organs and muscle tissue from that lack of oxygen that leads to heart and muscle damage.

If similar “plasma fractions” or synthetic compounds can be applied for medical use in humans, it would mean quicker recoveries from surgery and a greatly expanded number of heart transplants.