The field of biomimetics offers an innovative approach to solving human problems by imitating strategies found in nature. Medical research could also benefit from biomimetics, as a group of international experts from various fields, including a wildlife veterinarian and wildlife ecologists from Vetmeduni Vienna, point out using the example of chronic kidney disease. In future research, they intend to study the mechanisms that protect the muscles, organs and bones of certain animals during extreme conditions such as hibernation. The possibilities were published in Nature Reviews.
Through certain genetic modifications, the process of evolution has resulted in a great variety of adaptations to different environments in the animal kingdom. Many species have developed fascinating mechanisms that provide resistance to disease or help protect their cells against ageing and oxidative stress in extreme conditions. It would therefore make sense to investigate these mechanisms in other species and adapt the insights gained to develop new strategies in the field of human medicine.
An increased focus on biomimetics, the field of research that studies this approach, could lead to a medical breakthrough in the treatment of chronic kidney disease. An international, interdisciplinary research collaboration, including scientists from the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology, has now provided an initial overview of which animal mechanisms could be useful for the development of new therapeutic approaches to this globally spreading disease.
Solutions sought for chronic kidney disease
Physical adaptations that are of interest to biomimetics include the outstanding longevity of naked mole rats, for example, or the ability to survive extreme conditions like hibernation. "Biomimetics attempts to copy strategies that have already been tried and perfected by nature over thousands of years," explains Johanna Painer from the Department of Integrative Biology and Evolution. Painer, in an international collaboration with experts from various different fields, researches which of these elements from the animal kingdom could be applied to human health.
One of these problems for which solutions may be found in the animal kingdom is chronic kidney disease. This disease, which is becoming increasingly prevalent worldwide, is associated with many complications, such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, muscle wasting and premature ageing. But kidney disease is also a problem in the animal kingdom. Domestic felines and wild cats are quite frequently affected by chronic kidney disease. A possible cause is the high meat consumption and the resulting changes of the bacteria in the intestine.