Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Illnesses and Injuries

Seals have anti-inflammatory blood

Dr. Allyson Hindle from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, presented some interesting research on seals at the Experimental Biology conference this week in San Diego. Seals are known for being rather plump, which for humans often leads to inflammation and cardiovascular disease. In addition, seals undergo repeated bouts of hypoxia and reoxygenation during their dives, which is also known to promote inflammation and cardiovascular disease in humans. Her research team […]

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Elephants provide clues to cancer resistance

Cancer risk is associated with how often cells divide because each time DNA replicates, potential errors may occur. Unlike most mammals, elephants are remarkably resistant to cancer given their size. In a new study published in Cell Reports, researchers explored genes that evolved more quickly in elephants than other mammals to try to identify genes responsible for this protection. They identified several accelerated gene pathways in elephants that are important for DNA repair […]

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Making antibodies faster

Camelids (think llamas, alpacas and of course, camels) produce rather special antibodies that are highly sought after for research and biomedical applications. Nanobodies are small fragments of camelid antibodies that retain the ability to identify specific proteins. Because they are so small, they can bind to segments of proteins that intact or larger antibodies are unable to contact. This is what makes them attractive candidates in the search for new […]

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“Shirley Temple” protein found in platypus milk may help fight drug-resistant bacteria

Platypuses are rather bizarre mammals. For one, they lay eggs and although they feed their young milk, they sweat this milk from glands on their belly. Because the young lap up the milk and they live in burrows, they are exposed to microbes at a very young age. Like many mammals, platypus milk has antibiotic properties to help protect the young. However, the antibiotic protein found in platypus milk appears […]

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Tapeworms treat IBD?

Okay, I realize this is not a comparative physiology topic. But after reading this article, I just had to share it. A new study published in American Journal of Physiology – Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology presented data suggesting that parasitic worms may help treat or even prevent inflammatory bowl disease (IBD) in children. IBD is a condition characterized by inflammation in the gut that can lead to symptoms such as diarrhea […]

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Stem cell implant regrows axons in monkeys with spinal cord injury

  A new study published yesterday in Nature Medicine, presents research showing that grafting human neural stem cells into the spine of rhesus monkeys with recent spinal cord injuries improves the animal’s ability to grasp oranges. The researchers found that grafted stem cells matured into neurons (image below) that began connecting with the monkey’s existing neurons. This was the first time this type of research was performed in primates and may thus […]

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Centipede Analgesics

In the face of the current opioid crisis, scientists are searching for new and safer painkillers (analgesics). Venomous animals may be useful in the search as their venom can contain peptides with analgesic properties. In fact, researchers recently discovered and characterized an analgesic peptide, dubbed SsmTX-I, that was isolated from the venomous centipede, Scolopendra subspinipes mutilans. This peptide was shown to block a type of potassium channel (Kv2.1) in the body that is involved in sensing […]

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What a pain!

I read an interesting review article published recently in Physiology. The review discussed how various animals sense pain. Perhaps understanding how animals detect pain will lead to better pain management techniques for animals and humans.    Our bodies have special sensors, called nociceptors, that detect noxious stimuli that could injure tissues. Stimulation of these receptors is what allows you to move your hand away from a hot stove even before your […]

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