Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Illnesses and Injuries

Towards developing treatments for inflammation

Neutrophils are specialized immune cells that becomes activated in response to foreign particles or microorganisms. Think of them like security guards in your body. As they travel through the blood, their job is to detect and get rid of invading microorganisms. They also help spark inflammation responses to infections. For these reasons, they are known to help maintain homeostasis in the body, but they can also play roles in disease […]

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New research working towards preventing and treating necrotizing enterocolitis in premature babies

Necrotizing enterocolitis is an inflammatory disease of the intestines. New research suggests that premature babies are at risk of necrotizing enterocolitis in part because they have low levels of arachidonic and docosahexanoic acids in their gut, which regulate inflammation. Doctors routinely administer nutritional supplements to premature babies via an intravenous (i.v.) route until the gastrointestinal tract develops and the babies are able to process oral foods. This parenteral nutrition helps […]

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Metabolic costs of reproduction, eating, and increasing temperatures

Planarians are rather cute little flatworms, although they tend to wreak havoc in fish tanks. Researchers have long been fascinated by their ability to regenerate body parts when injured with the help of adult stem cells. More recently, they have gained attention for their ability to survive long periods of time without eating by “degrowing”, i.e. getting smaller but still keeping their shape and functions intact. I would shrink too […]

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Resisting bird flu

I just read an interesting article from the Max Delbruck Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association that explained why human cells are typically quite resistant to bird flu. Bird flu (H5N1, H7N9, H5N6) does not readily spread between infected humans. In fact, most outbreaks involve only a handful to a few hundred individuals. But, on occasion, the infection can spread more easily leading to a pandemic. New research […]

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Sniffing out cancer?

I just saw an interesting review article published in Physiological Reviews that discussed the presence of olfactory (i.e. smell) receptors located outside of the nose. Say what? It turns out that these “smell” receptors are not unique to our nostrils. In fact they are found throughout our bodies. Those found in the heart may be responsible for regulating heart function, those in the immune system are thought to help destroy types […]

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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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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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Fish offer clues to fixing broken hearts

About a year ago we talked about how Mexican tetra (Astyanax mexicanus) may hold the clues to treating diabetes. New research shows that is not all these tiny fish can teach us. Researchers at the University College London and the University of Oxford now think these fish may hold clues to regenerating damaged heart tissue. Their findings were published in Cell Reports. Mexican tetra are freshwater fish. Over millions of years, […]

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Improving tissue integrity for transplants

Ground squirrels are known for their remarkable ability to tolerate hypothermic conditions. Humans are not. Dr. JingXing Ou (National Institutes of Health) presented an interesting talk that explored using induced pluripotent neuronal stem cells isolated from these mammalian hibernators to improve tissue integrity for organ transplants. By understanding which pathways protected ground squirrel cells from cold-damage, these pathways could be manipulated in human induced pluripotent neuronal stem cells and improve […]

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Parasite-induced metabolic disease

Dr. Rudolf Schilder (Penn State University) presented a poster yesterday reporting that male dragonflies (Libellula pulchella) are developing infection-induced metabolic disease that is similar to type 2 diabetes and obesity in vertebrates. The culprit? A protozoan parasite in the animal’s gut. It makes you wonder if parasites may be to blame for some metabolic disease cases in humans…

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