Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Environment

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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Comparative Physiologist listed among the 100 most influential people of 2020

I was very excited to see Comparative Physiologist and astronaut Jessica Meir listed among Time’s 100 most influential people of 2020. Together with astronaut Christina Koch, who was also named among the top 100, the astronauts performed the first all-female spacewalk at the International Space Station in 2019. In all, the pair completed three spacewalks while aboard the International Space Station. It is hard to imagine how challenging it must […]

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Getting away from salt – the transition to life on land

The transition of vertebrates from the salty ocean to life on land required the ability for these animals to change how they dealt with salt. While salt is essential for many cellular functions, salt balance must be tightly regulated to prevent illness or even death. Animals that live in a salty environment have evolved the ability to get rid of excess salt from their bodies whereas land-dwelling animals evolved the […]

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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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There it is!

Somali elephant shrews were thought to be extinct until someone caught a glimpse of this little fellow. It is the first sighting of a Somali elephant shrew in 50 years! This adorable creature is actually related to elephants and aardvarks. While they typically eat ants, researchers were able to attract this shrew using oatmeal, peanut butter, and marmite…yum!

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It’s shark week!! Let’s talk about the spiny dogfish

I am so excited it is finally Shark Week on Discovery Channel! I look forward to this week every year. In honor of Shark Week, I found a neat study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology examining the rectal gland of the spiny dogfish shark (Squalus acanthias). This gland is very important as it allows the animals to get rid of salt (sodium […]

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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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Lactate directly increases breathing

Hypoxic environments increase ventilation in animals. This helps to bring in more oxygen when environmental levels may be limited. With limited oxygen availability, the body turns to anaerobic metabolism, resulting in the production of lactate ions. These ions are known to indirectly stimulate breathing by lowering blood pH and were more recently discovered to directly stimulate the carotid body to increase breathing. For this reason, lactate ions are thought to […]

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Highlights from the last day in Orlando

Today marked the final day of the 2019 Experimental Biology meeting in Orlando. As usual it was a great day for Physiology. Crupi et al., from the University of Messina and the Universita della Magna Grecia in Italy put up a poster presentation describing their research on how red blood cells respond to environmental toxins. Their research showed that isolated red blood cells from rabbits are more sensitive to venoms […]

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