Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Aging

Even the brainless need sleep

Most animals that we know of sleep. Sleep is very important for a healthy brain and our brains are important in regulating sleep. Interestingly, recent studies have shown that the cerebrospinal fluid actually washes out toxins from the brain when we get enough sleep at night. That “rinse cycle” so to speak is the brain’s way of staying healthy and is thought to prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. You may […]

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Live fast, die young

Researchers have long known that smaller animals have higher metabolisms and tend to die younger than larger animals. Think about it – a mouse typically only lives about 2 years whereas an elephant in the wild may live 50-70 years, depending on the species. After studying over 700 species of birds and 540 species of mammals, scientists discovered that migratory animals also live faster (mature and reproduce earlier) and die […]

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Nature’s architects

Nature has already solved many problems that doctors, researchers, and architects are still trying to solve for humans. For example, some of our prior posts have talked about how some animals are resistant to developing cancer: Elephants Tasmanian devils Naked mole rats Other animals have developed special nano antibodies (nanobodies) to fight disease. Llamas While several are tolerant of very low oxygen levels in the environment, others are champions of […]

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Researchers discover cause of hearing loss in an underground dweller

Naked mole rats are rather extreme animals in many ways. As underground dwellers, they live in chronically hypoxic environments and are blind. These animals also age more slowly than other mammals and are resistant to developing cancer even though they are long-lived. Did you also know, they are hard of hearing? In a new study published in Current Biology, researchers have discovered the cause of their hearing loss. The inner […]

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Researchers explore why wild canids live longer than domestic dogs and why size matters

Ever wonder why some breeds of dogs live longer than others? Or why wild canids, such as gray wolves, live longer than similar sized domesticated dogs (20.6 vs 10-12 years)? Drs. Ana Jimenez (Colgate University, New York) and Dr. Cynthia Downs (State University of New York, Syracuse) teamed up to examine a common marker of aging in animals – oxidative stress. Oxidative stress happens when there is a build-up of […]

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Avian red blood cells produce hydrogen sulfide to maintain cell integrity and longevity

Birds have strange red blood cells, at least in comparison to mammals. While they both are responsible for transporting oxygen molecules throughout the body, avian red blood cells have mitochondria and a nucleus. Mammalian red blood cells, on the other hand, are missing a nucleus as well as organelles. By eliminating these structures, mammalian red blood cells are able to carry more oxygen molecules and fold more easily to fit […]

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Dolphins can develop similar neurological diseases as humans

I am pretty sure most people would agree that dolphins are pretty smart. But did you know that they may develop similar neurological conditions as humans? I read an interesting article published in Drug Target Review exploring how dolphins that have washed up on beaches may help us understand neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s as well as responses to viral infections. For example, Dolphin morbillivirus (DMV) is a virus similar to […]

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Evolution of pain resistance

Could you imagine eating a pile of chile peppers or spicy hot mustard and not feeling any pain? The ability to sense pain is physiologically quite important as it alerts us to potentially dangerous or poisonous chemicals. Many plants (stinging nettles, pungent bulbs, hot chilies) and animals (stinging ants, scorpions, snakes) produce noxious chemicals to protect themselves from predators. In turn, some predators have evolved resistance to these chemicals. An […]

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The key to the fountain of youth?

I just read an interesting article on the physiology of long-lived species that was published in Physiology. Some animals seem to have discovered the secret to the fountain of youth. Take the long-lived naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber) for example. These animals are able to maintain juvenile traits across their lifespan by growing slowly, having low levels of hormones responsible for development and delaying the onset of sexual maturity. Dwarf […]

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Bee sting therapy – revisited

Bee sting therapy has been getting a lot of buzz lately. I have received a lot of questions about applications of so-called apitherapy to conditions other than multiple sclerosis, which we discussed awhile back. Let’s review the more recent evidence… While the practice of apitherapy dates back 5000+ years, only recently has this potential therapy been scientifically investigated. According to a recent review, bee venom has several peptides as well […]

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