Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Comparative Physiology

Birds have a unique way of preventing muscle wasting

Muscle wasting is a major complication associated with cirrhosis and liver failure. Normally the liver functions to convert ammonia into urea. But with liver failure, this process does not work well leading to high levels of circulating ammonia, which is thought to contribute to muscle wasting in mammals. A new study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, explored whether birds have the same muscle wasting […]

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A mother’s diet can have a lasting impact on offspring

A new study published in Physiological Reports provides evidence that a mother’s diet during pregnancy could have lasting impacts on her offspring’s bone development and later risk of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is characterized by a loss of trabecular (spongy) bone leading to increased risk for developing bone fractures.  The researchers discovered this relationship while studying female microswine that were consuming a diet containing only 1% protein late in their pregnancy and for […]

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Dealing with the cold

Cold-tolerant insects have developed several strategies for dealing with cold temperatures. A new study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology explored how spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii), in particular, adapted physiologically to cold exposure. They discovered that animals adapted to living in the cold had altered the structure of their cellular membranes in ways that kept the membrane fluid and prevented it from becoming rigid. Moreover, […]

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Rising water temperatures masculinizes Nile tilapia

Nile tilapia, Oreochromis niloticus, is a species of freshwater fish native to Egypt and Africa. Global warming has the potential to significantly impact this species as water temperatures above 32 to 36.5 degrees Celsius can induce young fish (10-30 days after fertilization) that are genotypically female to become masculinized. Moreover, a recent study published in PLOS ONE showed that some young fish choose to visit warmer waters. A new study published […]

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Chronic stress impacts everyone around us

A new study examined how our stress impacts our best friend’s mental health.  The researchers studied Shetland sheepdogs, border collies and their owners and found that dogs living with people who had high levels of stress hormone (cortisol) in their hair follicles, similarly had high levels of cortisol in their fur. In contrast, canine anxiety does not appear to run off on people. That’s good news for those of us […]

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Misery loves company

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that ravens appear to share negative emotions. The researchers started with offering birds two boxes placed on the left and right sides of the animals. While one box was empty, the other contained a piece of cheese (yum!). They then placed a box in a new location and examined how the birds responded. If a bird acted […]

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