Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Illnesses and Injuries

New cancer diagnostic tool

Scientists have come up with a truly unique tool to try to detect cancer – ants. Yes, ants. Ants are known for their strong sense of smell, which helps them locate food pretty well. Interestingly, some forms of cancer can alter the smell of urine and ants may be able to detect those changes. Their findings on the potential use of ants as “bio-detectors” of cancer were published in the […]

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The complex interplay between pathogens and our immune system

I read an interesting review article explaining how cells evolved the ability to kill off pathogens and, in turn, how pathogens evade death. It is kind of like a perpetual game of ‘cat and mouse’ in which the interaction between animals and pathogens drives the evolution of host defenses against infections while at the same time driving the evolution of pathogen strategies to avoid detection. According to the review article, […]

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Arizona physiologists gathered recently for their annual meeting

The Arizona Physiological Society, a chapter of the American Physiological Society, hosted their 15th annual scientific meeting this past weekend! Here are some highlights… The Keynote Address was presented by Dr. Harold D Schultz, Professor in the Department of Cellular and Integrative Physiology at the University of Nebraska. His talk focused on the physiology of heart failure and how the nervous system regulates blood pressure. This year’s Arizona Distinguished Physiologist […]

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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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