Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Comparative Physiology

Porcine heart donors

Have you heard about the research being conducted to improve the use of pig hearts for human transplants?  A recent article from Discover Magazine reported on a study in which researchers were able to keep a baboon alive for 6 months with a transplanted pig heart. While pig hearts are similar to primate hearts, a major problem with xenotransplantation is that they are not only bigger to begin with, they […]

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Don’t let that cute little face fool you…

This is not your Grandmother’s cat. Despite its seemingly domesticated look, this cute feline is a fierce hunter. Black-footed cats are the smallest wild felines in Africa coming in at only 14-20 inches long, 8 inches in height and weighing only 2-6 pounds. They are also considered the deadliest feline on Earth. Say what??? Turns out this Napoleonic cat is known for killing more prey in one night (10-14 rodents […]

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Could zinc be involved in forming kidney stones?

Zinc is a micronutrient that is essential for normal protein production and for various enzymes to function properly in the body. Levels are important to regulate because too much can be toxic to the kidneys whereas too little can lead to problems with immune and metabolic function as well as infertility. In a new study published in American Journal of Physiology – Renal Physiology, researchers were interested in how zinc […]

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Alligator snorkeling

I read an interesting article in Live Science about a unique way a group of American alligators use to survive periods of freezing water, for a few days at least. As the temperature drops, the animals stick their nose out of the water and are thus able to breathe through the ice. During cold months the alligators also reduce their metabolism, a process called brumation, which is different from hibernation […]

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Breathing air

Researchers interested in the evolution of air breathing in bony fishes (Osteicthyes) recently published a fascinating review in the Physiologist. The ability to breathe air made life on land as we know it possible. What is interesting though is that the ability to breathe air actually evolved independently possibly 38-67 times in history. Currently, there are over 400 air-breathing fishes belonging to the Sarcopterygii and Actinopterygii classes. To adapt to life on land, […]

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Lack of sleep stresses out birds too

Birds show signs of stress resulting from sleep loss. A new study published in Physiological and Biochemical Zoology shows that zebra finches who are sleep deprived have increased expression of inflammatory genes in their fat tissues, spleen and hippocampus region of the brain along with  increased levels of circulating stress hormones. The hippocampus is the region of the brain associated with long term memory formation. I wonder if sleep deprived birds are […]

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Taller horses are more prone to exercise intolerance

A common cause of exercise intolerance in horses is equine recurrent laryngeal neuropathy (RLN). This is a fancy way of saying that the animals are not able to open their larynx on the left side very well during strenuous exercise, which limits their oxygen intake and ability to exercise. Larger horses, like thoroughbreds, are more prone to developing this condition than smaller breeds. In a new study published in Physiological Genomics […]

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