Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Archive for February 2017

Growing meaty fish

Similar to humans, muscle growth in fish is increased with exercise. Unlike humans, however, teleost fish are able to continue growing in length as well as weight throughout their lives. This type of meat, I mean muscle, growth happens in two ways: 1) muscle cells get bigger and 2) new muscle cells form. Researchers at the University of Barcelona in Spain wanted to know what effect moderate sustained swimming would have on the muscles of young […]

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Fin whales have coiled nerves

Fin whales have big mouths, really big mouths. When your meals consist of tiny krill, it is understandable why you would evolve the ability to stretch your mouth super-wide. With each meal comes a lot of water, which expands a pouch in the bottom of their mouths. As the pouch expands, all of the tissues in the pouch expand as well including blood vessels and nerves.  Stretchy nerves caught the interest of of Dr. […]

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Is there an evolutionary advantage to being ‘stupid’?

As I was looking through the scientific literature the other day, I came across an article published in 1973, “The Evolutionary Advantages of Being Stupid.” With a title like that, how could I not read it? In this article Dr. Eugene D. Robin discussed how larger and more complex brains are associated with greater intelligence, which by evolutionary standards was thought to be related to “superiority.” He described how this line of thinking […]

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Could pitcher plant enzyme treat celiac?

Pitcher plants are a known enemy of insects, but perhaps beneficial for people suffering from celiac disease. Chemist Dr. David Schriemer at the University of Calgary was studying the pitcher plant Nepenthes x ventrata (shown above) in his search for an enzyme similar to pepsin for use in his experiments. Pitcher plants secrete digestive fluids with a pH similar to own digestive juices. Through his research he found the enzyme from pitcher plants could […]

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The ultimate desalination plant: the eel esophagus

I love fish. The diversity of these aquatic creatures is so vast, I find them fascinating. Take the eel for example: In a study published this month in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, researchers wanted to link information they learned from sequencing the RNA of eels with understanding how the animals adapt to saline environments. During acclimation to saltwater, fish have no choice but […]

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Ant ‘love’ hormone may help prevent preterm labor in humans

Happy Valentine’s Day! Inotocin is the insect form of the so-called “love” hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin, as you may know, is responsible for inducing labor in pregnant women. A recent study published in Scientific Reports describes the work of a team of researchers that created a synthetic version of inotocin which could bind to both oxytocin and vasopressin receptors in human tissues. Vasopressin is important for preventing water loss in the kidneys, which is how it gets […]

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