Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Illnesses and Injuries

Physiology in Iowa

The Iowa Physiological Society held their 23rd annual meeting today. It was a huge success! Seminars were on a diverse array of topics including epilepsy, chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease, hypertension caused by menopause, how heat exposure impacts insulin’s actions in skeletal muscle tissue, how exercise changes blood flow in muscles of individuals with obesity, factors that change the ability to grow new blood vessels, The Keynote Speaker was Dr. Mark […]

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Discovering new antibiotics in…saliva??

Scientists have discovered that they can quickly identify new antibiotics using bear saliva. This is because saliva from East Siberian brown bears is home to a diversity of bacteria. (Okay granted, this is true of many wild animals – the study referenced here focused on bears.) Although it does not sound very sophisticated, a team of scientists at Rutgers University thought that they may be able to identify novel antibiotics […]

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Elasmobranchs may hold clues for treating blood disorders

As you may already know, bone marrow contains cells that specialize in both bone as well as blood maintenance. Stem cells destined to become white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets are called hematopoietic stem cells (aka: HSCs). CXCL12 is a special ligand that helps keep HSCs in the bone marrow by acting as a chemical attractant for the chemokine receptor C-X-C (CXCR4) found on HSCs. Some researchers are […]

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Summer of Physiology

The Michigan Physiological Society, a chapter of the American Physiological Society, held their annual meeting this summer.  Here are some highlights from the meeting: The keynote address was given by Dr. Virginia Miller, Professor of Surgery and Physiology and Director of the Women’s Health Research Center, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN. Her talk was about “Sex-specific Differences in Risk for Cardiovascular Disease.” Specifically, how estrogen, menopause and pregnancy influence the risk […]

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Cancer resistance in elephants explained

  Research has shown that <5% of elephants succumb to cancer. This is remarkable as elephants are massive, meaning they have more cells to replicate on a regular basis than humans. One would think having so many cells would increase the risk of these cells dividing improperly, especially considering that captive elephants can live for about 70 years. It has been known for several years that elephants have 20 copies […]

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Ants ‘nurse’ their injured

A study conducted at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland shows that Matabele ants, Megaponera analis, lick wounds their comrades sustain while hunting termites. It is thought that this “nurse”-like behavior may help prevent infection as ants receiving such care are more likely to survive: Sources: Youtube / New Scientist Frank ET, Wehrhahn M, Linsenmair KE. Wound treatment and selective help in a termite-hunting ant. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.2457  

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Sleep vs torpor

  I read an interesting review article published in Physiology comparing the low metabolic states of non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM) and torpor. According to the article, all mammals experience NREM sleep patterns during which energy expenditure is decreased and body as well as brain temperatures decline. Animals that experience torpor (hummingbirds, arctic ground squirrels, some mice, bears, etc) have reduced metabolic rates and body temperatures that dip below baseline. NREM […]

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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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