Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Intelligence and Neuroscience

Hydrogen sulfide – the gas we hate to smell, but can’t live without

Although hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is most often associated with manure and the smells of rotten eggs, research has shown it plays important physiological roles. In fact, our bodies actually produce H2S within our cells. Other source of H2S include sulfate-producing bacteria in our gut and dietary intake (such as garlic and cruciferous vegetables). H2S is a member of a group of gasotransmitters, referred to as the ‘reactive species interactome’, that […]

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The biological importance of carbonic anhydrase enzyme

Carbonic anhydrase is an important enzyme that regulates the acid-base balance of an organism. In fact, carbonic anhydrase (CA) is so important to homeostasis, it is found in all living organisms studied to date – from microorganisms (like bacteria) to mammals. As the name implies, this enzyme is responsible for catalyzing the hydration of carbon dioxide, which is a reversible process (see figure above). In other words, it speeds up […]

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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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On the road to developing artificial odorant sensors for noses

Almost all animals have some ability to detect smells their environment and there are countless odorant molecules and combinations of molecules in the environment that our systems are challenged with identifying. The sense of smell is important in many biological processes such as finding food, mates, and detecting threats. Scents may also conjure up memories and affect our emotions. About 5% of the population either has no (anosmia) or very […]

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Considering a cranberry side dish for Thanksgiving? New study shows regular consumption may lower cholesterol and prevent memory loss

Okay, I’ll admit this blog entry has nothing really to do with comparative physiology. I just happen to really like eating cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving and was curious about the benefits of eating cranberries more often. Like many other berries, cranberries are a super-fruit rich in polyphenols and antioxidants that are associated with protecting brain health with aging. On their own they are rather bitter due to the high amounts […]

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One reason why fish and mammals lose their appetite during stress

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I lose my appetite when I am really stressed. The endocrine system is responsible for controlling our stress responses and involves three main endocrine glands – the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal gland. Hence, the stress pathway is often referred to as the “HPA axis”. When we are stressed, the hypothalamus releases a hormone called corticotropin releasing factor (CRF), which triggers the release of […]

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Ever wonder why humans are attracted to the smell of fatty foods?

There has been a lot of speculation that fast food establishments and bakeries intentionally waft smells that attract customers. I’ll admit I find the smell of cheeseburgers quite tempting. Researchers are seeking to understand what draws humans to the smell of fatty foods in an effort to target those sensations as a way to combat obesity and obesity-related diseases. The approach seems reasonable. If I couldn’t smell a juicy grilled […]

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Goldfish learn how to drive and target similar visual cues as humans

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev constructed a tank on wheels that goldfish actually learned how to “drive”. Using cameras, the “car” was able to move in the direction the fish swam. They then tested whether the fish could purposefully navigate the car towards a target and observed that the fish could indeed swim towards a target in return for a treat, of course. In a prior study, the […]

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EB2022: Facing Oxygen Challenges

I learned a lot about how animals adapt to changing environmental oxygen levels in the Experimental Biology symposium on “Functional Integration across the Oxygen Cascade in the Face of Challenging Environments.” Here is what I learned… The first presenter, Dr. Lara do Amaral-Silva (postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro working with Dr. Joseph (Joe) Santin), spoke about her research on adaptations in the bullfrog “super-brain” that […]

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