Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Illnesses and Injuries

Ammonia tolerance of goldfish

Liver failure or congenital defects can lead to a build-up of ammonia in the brain of mammals resulting in life-threatening swelling, convulsions and comas. For goldfish (Carassius auratus), environmental exposure to ammonia causes reversible swelling of the brain. In a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, researchers wanted to explore how the fish were able to accomplish this. They exposed goldfish to high […]

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Carbon monoxide lowers breathing rate in fish too

  We tend to think of carbon monoxide (CO) only in terms of being a poisonous gas. The reason for its toxicity is due to its ability to bind really tightly to our hemoglobin molecules, which prevents oxygen from being able to bind. In mammals, CO also decrease breathing rate. As you can imagine, it is a pretty terrible gas to breath in when you are a species dependent on hemoglobin for delivery […]

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Reindeers may pave way for discovery of nerve regeneration techniques for humans

I came across a neat article in Scientific American that described how reindeer and elk regrow their antlers every year. Could you imagine putting that much energy into growing new bone each year complete with a velvety cover containing nerves, skin, and blood vessels? Although full-grown antlers lose their blood supply and animals scrape the velvet layer off to reveal just bone. Researchers have explored whether understanding this amazing process of […]

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Restoring locomotion in primates with spinal cord injuries

Pioneering research being conducted by Dr. Gregoire Courtine (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology – Lausanne) may enable paralyzed humans to walk again someday. Through his collaborative research with a lab in Beijing China, he has developed a wireless brain implant that detects signals in the brain and then sends these signals to electrodes implanted in the lower spine (below the injured region) of the animals. This technology allows the brain signals to […]

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The Integrative Biology of Exercise VII – Day 3

Highlights from Day 3!   The costs of being a father? Jacob Andrew et al. from the University of California – Riverside presented a poster examining the long-term effects of fatherhood in California mice (Peromyscus californicus). California mice are monogamous and biparental, like humans. This means that both parents participate in taking care of offspring. In prior research they found that first-time fathers did not experience many changes in their physiology, […]

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The Integrative Biology of Exercise VII – Day 2

Mitochondria produce more than just ATP Pinchas Cohen from the University of California – Davis presented data showing that mitochondria produce more than just ATP. They also make several peptides that can each affect our physiology. Some help cells respond to insulin better, some help with weight, some regulate cell metabolism. What is even more impressive is that some of these peptides have been shown to slow down the development […]

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The Integrative Biology of Exercise VII – Day 1

The opening session was great! Eric Hoffman (Children’s National Medical Center) presented work on chronic inflammatory diseases in children. He mentioned that while diets high in fats and carbohydrates (i.e. Western diets), obesity and sedentary lifestyles are associated with inflammation and related diseases (ex: asthma, type 2 diabetes), another contributor could be hormones. Kids who stay indoors more often have reduced exposure to sunlight and exercise less. This may alter the normal biological clock of […]

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Fevers impair brain activity

You probably already knew that fevers can cause some people to develop seizures. According to the National Institutes of Health, these so-called ‘febrile seizures’ can happen at temperatures of 102.2 degrees F and above and are most-often seen in children. The good news is that this type of seizure is usually short and does not often cause any long-term damage to the brain. In a new study published in Physiological Reports, […]

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Genetically-modified virus stops Alzheimer’s disease

Check out this video from Reuters (via YouTube). It summarizes an exciting study from researchers at Imperial College London who were able to stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in mice by administering a modified virus to the animals. The virus worked by preventing the formation of the characteristic amyloid plaques that are responsible for causing damage to neurons in the brain. Importantly, the virus did not result in loss […]

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Using yeast to prevent outbreaks of C. difficile infections

As the name implies, Clostrodium difficile (C. diff.) bacterial infections are difficult to treat because of antibiotic resistance. The problem with C. diff is that these bacteria release toxins that cause inflammation and diarrhea. In fact, C. diff is the number one cause of infectious diarrhea in hospitals as well as long-term care facilities. Studies have shown that probiotic yeast may help prevent C. diff infections. While these studies are exciting, much of this prior […]

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