A study recently released by Japanese researchers reads like a superhero origin story: Scientists extract blood serum from a creature and use it to grow human cells like some kind of super brew of muscle-building supplements. Then, of course, Japan becomes a nation of ultra-yoked black-bear-blood serum-infused muscle giants and proceeds to spread the serum to the world; humanity becomes a united species of bodybuilders — who may also potentially sleep through the winter.
Hey, it’s possible. The science totally backs it up. Sort of.
Scientists from Hiroshima University and Hokkaido University actually infused human muscle cells with blood serum from hibernating black bears. Guess what they observed? Muscle gain.
Suddenly it seems like a Captain America-style serum that allows the human body to build muscle at a greater rate and mass than naturally possible isn’t too far of a stretch. Bear blood may eventually help our bodies and muscles heal like Wolverine’s do, almost instantly, but it could do a lot more. At the very least, it might limit setbacks caused by musculoskeletal injuries.
The scientists got started by observing that black bear muscle doesn’t atrophy during hibernation. Bears lay dormant in their dens for up to half of a year without significant muscle wasting. And, what’s more, they don’t lose physical abilities either.
Sure, they walk around groggily for a few days after emerging from their dens. But black bears mostly arise from their slumber ready to roll. Counter that with humans, whose muscles waste away after only a few weeks of inactivity while also losing significant strength and physical function — ask anyone who has endured a significant hospital stay.
The study isolated several components that could cause protein synthesis in human skeletal muscle. But, scientists are currently unsure which one is responsible for muscle growth. Follow-up research is on the way.
Researchers hope to find the secret component for use in the rehabilitation of muscular atrophy — you know, practically medical stuff — but it sure makes you think of the possibilities, doesn’t it? What if a chemical in bear blood is the key to peak human muscular performance? What if it helped people live longer, healthier lives? And, pivotally, would it be used for good or for evil?
Maybe bear blood will help grandma bounce back from her hip surgery in a fraction of the time. It could be the next breakthrough treatment for soldiers and vets wounded in combat. Perhaps it can be used to turn ordinary men into ubermensch beings capable of self-healing. The possibilities are exciting but also unnerving.
Now, here’s what you need to know: The research took place on Petri dishes in a lab. These scientists aren’t injecting bear blood into sparsely-muscled humans and watching pecs, delts, and biceps pop where once there was only skin and bones. They’re a long way off from developing and producing a bear blood serum for medicinal use or performance enhancement. But each use is possible.
Should they figure it out, black bear blood serum would be one more way in which animals have improved the quality and quantity of human life. Current examples include organ transplants, psychoactive drugs, treatments for trauma, and blood diseases. Heck, we have the polio vaccine, thanks to monkey kidneys. Black bear blood could well lead to the next huge human health discovery.
However, let’s think beyond medicinal purposes and focus on the ultimate attainment of human potential. Who knows what we’d find should we start exploring the seemingly impossible abilities possessed by other animals.
Maybe we’d harness the spatial awareness and equilibrium of mountain goats. Or we could develop the olfactory prowess of a bloodhound. Eagle-like vision also sounds pretty dang neat. Imagine seeing eight times farther than is currently humanly possible.
Hopefully, continued research evolves and deepens our understanding of our relationships with our furred, feathered, and scaled brethren and, in the process, redefines human potential.
Could the future of protein supplements be something derived from hibernating bear blood? Why the hell not? Bear Blood Protein Powder — it has a nice ring to it. In the meantime, if you want to drink the blood of the next black bear you shoot, nobody’s stopping you, but it’s 99% certain you won’t get jacked from it.