Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Surviving the cold

The ability to regulate body temperature is critical for animals. This is especially true for small mammals as they have a larger surface area resulting in more heat loss to the environment than larger animals. Animals that stay active during the winter likewise have to spend more energy to stay warm. To do this well, they need to balance heat loss with heat generation through shivering as well as non-shivering […]

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Extreme tolerance of dehydration stress

Talk about an extreme animal. During the rainy season annual killifish, Austrofundulus limnaeus, lay eggs that are resistant to droughts. This is an important attribute for a fish that lives in temporary pools of water. The stress-resistant embryos within the eggs literally shut down their metabolism to survive months – possibly years without water. For many fish, exposure to air (and oxygen) can cause profound oxidative stress. Remarkably, this is […]

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Scientists discover gene that may protect from hypertension

Giraffes are extreme. Given their long necks, their blood pressure is 2.5 times higher than ours, which ensures that oxygenated blood makes it all the way up to their head. Having high blood pressure, however, is simply a normal characteristic of being a giraffe. A new study published in Science Advances explored the giraffe genome to identify genes that might help protect the cardiovascular system of giraffes by comparing their […]

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Anoxia tolerance in goldfish

The reason mammals are not very good at tolerating hypoxic (i.e. low oxygen) environments, is because the brain relies heavily on oxygen for metabolism. It is so stingy, it uses about 20% of the oxygen in the body to make ATP. Without oxygen, the brain has to rely on glycolysis to make ATP and this process is not good at meeting the energy requirements of the neurons, ultimately resulting in […]

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Towards developing treatments for inflammation

Neutrophils are specialized immune cells that becomes activated in response to foreign particles or microorganisms. Think of them like security guards in your body. As they travel through the blood, their job is to detect and get rid of invading microorganisms. They also help spark inflammation responses to infections. For these reasons, they are known to help maintain homeostasis in the body, but they can also play roles in disease […]

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New research working towards preventing and treating necrotizing enterocolitis in premature babies

Necrotizing enterocolitis is an inflammatory disease of the intestines. New research suggests that premature babies are at risk of necrotizing enterocolitis in part because they have low levels of arachidonic and docosahexanoic acids in their gut, which regulate inflammation. Doctors routinely administer nutritional supplements to premature babies via an intravenous (i.v.) route until the gastrointestinal tract develops and the babies are able to process oral foods. This parenteral nutrition helps […]

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Frogs are teaching researchers about autism

Dr. Helen Willsey at the University of California San Francisco is seeking to understand how autism develops with the help of frogs. Because frogs produce thousands of embryos at the same time, she is able to quickly study the effects of many different gene alterations in the offspring. While the embryos are at the two-cell stage of development, her laboratory alters genes in just one of the cells using CRISPR-Cas9 […]

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