Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Illnesses and Injuries

Mice have special ‘jumping genes’ that help them survive viral infections

Researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney discovered a ‘jumping gene’ that prevents the immune system of mice from overreacting to a viral infection. Jumping genes are movable nucleic acids, or transposable elements, that make up nearly 2/3 of the genome in mammals. They help regulate the expression of genes. Some transposable elements in the genome are new and some originated in ancient times. In the new […]

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Aging and Immortality

Have you ever heard of the ‘immortal’ jellyfish, Turritopsis dohrnii? These tiny creatures (about 4.5 mm) are aptly named for their ability to essentially live forever. According to the Natural History Museum, when these jellyfish are damaged, they can actually revert to a prior life cycle as a polyp and become an adult jellyfish (aka, medusa) all over again. This process is called transdifferentiation. Check out this video from the […]

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New study discovers how zebrafish mend a broken heart

A new study has helped unravel the mystery explaining how zebrafish regenerate a broken heart. Their findings, published in Nature Genetics, reveal how these amazing little fish can regrow up to 20% of their heart in only 2 months following an injury. This regeneration is driven by signals released from special cells called fibroblasts. When the heart of zebrafish is injured by a stimulus that mimics a heart attack (using […]

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Under pressure: One way our bodies regulate blood pressure

Did you know that blood vessels come fully equipped with the ability to help regulate blood pressure? This is possible because of smooth muscle cells that wrap around blood vessels (see image above). Because they wrap around the inner layers of the blood vessel, when these cells contract, the lumen od the blood vessel becomes narrow and increases blood pressure. When they relax, the blood vessels widen thereby lowering blood […]

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Humans do it, cats do it, dogs do it…why can’t rodents or rabbits do it?

Did you know that rodents and rabbits are not able to vomit? This was certainly news to me. So, I had to find out more… First, let’s talk about the difference between retching and vomiting. During retching (or dry heaves), the diaphragm and abdominal muscles contract, which helps increase pressure within the stomach (and prepare the contents for expulsion). Vomiting also involves contractions of the diaphragm, abdominal as well as […]

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EB 2022: Seals, seals, and more seals

Several posters at EB 2022 in Philadelphia this month were focused on understanding the remarkable physiology of diving seals. Although we may think of the image below when we picture seals, they really are quite the athletes in water. Kaitlin Allen (a graduate student working in the laboratory of Dr. José Pablo Vázquez-Medina at the University of California Berkeley) presented her research on Northern elephant seals and how these animals […]

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EB 2022: Modeling human diseases and healthy aging

I sat through a very interesting session at this year’s Experimental Biology conference called, “The Power of Comparative Models for Accelerating Translational Healthspan Research: Underutilized Lab Animals, Companion Pets, Old World Monkeys, and Pumas.” While the title seems to capture the general idea of the symposium, I thought I would share a bit more information about the presenters and their exciting research. Dr. Karyn Hamilton from Colorado State University presented […]

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Stranger than science fiction: treefrogs that freeze and live to tell the story

Today we have a guest blog written by Elizabeth Evans (pictured above), a graduate student at the University of Dayton working in the laboratory of Dr. Carissa Krane. She presented her research on freeze tolerance today at the 2022 Experimental Biology conference in Philadelphia. She wrote the award-winning blog entry below which earned the 2022 Dr. Dolittle Travel Award to attend the conference. Congratulations Elizabeth!! Stranger than science fiction: treefrogs […]

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Understanding genetic factors contributing to COPD

According to a study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, we have a lot in common with fruit flies when it comes to the layer of cells that line our airways. So much so, that researchers claim Drosophila melanogaster are important models for lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD is a debilitating disease that claimed the lives of over […]

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Tips to avoiding blood clots and improving blood storage for transfusions

Hibernating mammals are amazing! How in the world do they prevent blood clots when they not only reduce their body temperature but also their blood flow during hibernation? That question is precisely what a new study published in Physiological Genomics examined.   Typically, cold temperatures are known to activate the process of blood clotting by stimulating platelets. Platelets are sticky cells without a nucleus that circulate in the blood. When […]

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