This past weekend the Arizona Physiological Society held their 11th annual conference on the Tempe campus of Arizona State University. There were so many oral and poster presentations on comparative physiology that I will spend this entry focusing on the oral sessions.
The Keynote address was given by Dr. Michael Joyner (Mayo Clinic, Rochester) who spoke about the importance of not just focusing research efforts on reductionist approaches, including many of the “-omics” approaches that are so popular these days – proteomics, genomics, etc. It is also important to bring this information back to the whole animal level to understand how these changes impact phenotype. He also spoke of the importance of not just focusing on rodent models, as comparative physiology approaches may bring important new insights into mechanisms.
This year’s Arizona Distinguished Lecturer was Dr. Janis Burt from the University of Arizona in Tucson. She spoke about her research on connexin proteins, which are the building blocks of gap junctions that allow cells to directly communicate with each other. As such, these proteins are essential in vascular remodeling processes that occur during normal development as well as after an ischemia re-perfusion injury, such as a heart attack or stroke.
Other highlights from the oral sessions included:
Trevor Fox (Graduate Student at Arizona State University in Tempe) whose research explored how populations of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes (the ones that have been implicated in spreading Zika, Dengue and Chikungunya viruses) are increasing in the Desert Southwest.
Haley Owen (Graduate Student at Midwestern University in Glendale, AZ) described her research identifying a previously unknown species of tick that is responsible for spreading Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to both dogs and humans in Arizona. She hopes her research may be used to create a new vaccine.
George Brusch (Graduate Student at Arizona State University, Tempe campus) discussed how immune function can be increased in reptiles in response to dehydration.
Tyler Quigley (Graduate student at Arizona State University in Tempe) spoke about research designed to understand how hormones and exogenous chemicals, like pesticides, cross the honeybee blood brain barrier and can impact behavioral as well as cognition in bees. Research like this, is important to ensure honeybee populations continue to rise.
Anthony Basile (Graduate Student at Arizona State University in Tempe) discussed his research exploring how mourning doves avoid developing high blood sugar even after being fed a diet consisting of only refined carbohydrates and water for a month. If only we could all be birds…
Dr. Christopher Olson (Midwestern University) spoke about how Black Jacobins living in noisy tropical forests have come up with a unique way to communicate – ultrasonic vocalizations. What is interesting is that sounds in this range are outside (higher) than any known hearing range for birds that have been studied.