Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Nature’s Solutions

Guest Blog: Liver genes of Cope’s gray treefrog provide clues to low temperature and freezing

Dr. Clara do Amaral is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Dayton in Ohio where she studies freeze tolerance in frogs. She received a Research Recognition Award from the Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology section of the American Physiological Society at the 2017 Experimental Biology meeting in Chicago, IL. She prepared this award-winning guest blog entry to describe her interesting research: The Cope’s gray treefrog is a small frog that occurs in […]

Continue Reading →

Synthetic peptide inspired by Komodo dragon blood speeds wound healing

Researchers at George Mason University have created a synthetic version of a peptide found in the blood of Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis). They dubbed the synthetic peptide DRGN-1. Living up to its name, DRGN-1 proved to be pretty tough against microbes (Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus) as well as biofilms. Bacteria stick together to create biofilms that attach to surfaces and help to protect themselves during an infection. Even infected wounds healed faster when they were treated with […]

Continue Reading →

Secrets to Longevity

A new article published in Physiological Reviews compared some remarkable similarities and differences between naked mole rats and humans. Both are relatively long-lived, highly social and have low natural selection pressures. But, this is about all they have in common. While humans are prone to developing age-related cancer, diabetes, heart disease and dementias, naked mole rats are rather resistant to these diseases. Instead, naked mole rats appear to maintain a youthful […]

Continue Reading →

Need pest control, get a spider

A new study shows that globally, spiders consume 400-800 million tons of prey each year. That’s roughly more than double the amount of fish and meat that humans consume. Impressive…yet creepy at the same time. I suppose we should thank them for their pest control efforts. Sources: M Nyffeler, K Birkhofer. An estimated 400–800 million tons of prey are annually killed by the global spider community. The Science of Nature. 104: 30, 2017. […]

Continue Reading →

Komodo dragons have antibacterial blood

Researchers studying komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) at George Mason University discovered 48 previously unknown peptides in their blood that might have antimicrobial properties. Their findings were published in the Journal of Proteome Research. For the largest lizard, these peptides may help prevent the animals from getting infections from their own saliva, which is host to at least 57 species of bacteria. With this number of bacteria, it is easy to understand why they evolved so many […]

Continue Reading →

Fin whales have coiled nerves

Fin whales have big mouths, really big mouths. When your meals consist of tiny krill, it is understandable why you would evolve the ability to stretch your mouth super-wide. With each meal comes a lot of water, which expands a pouch in the bottom of their mouths. As the pouch expands, all of the tissues in the pouch expand as well including blood vessels and nerves.  Stretchy nerves caught the interest of of Dr. […]

Continue Reading →

Could pitcher plant enzyme treat celiac?

Pitcher plants are a known enemy of insects, but perhaps beneficial for people suffering from celiac disease. Chemist Dr. David Schriemer at the University of Calgary was studying the pitcher plant Nepenthes x ventrata (shown above) in his search for an enzyme similar to pepsin for use in his experiments. Pitcher plants secrete digestive fluids with a pH similar to own digestive juices. Through his research he found the enzyme from pitcher plants could […]

Continue Reading →

The ultimate desalination plant: the eel esophagus

I love fish. The diversity of these aquatic creatures is so vast, I find them fascinating. Take the eel for example: In a study published this month in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, researchers wanted to link information they learned from sequencing the RNA of eels with understanding how the animals adapt to saline environments. During acclimation to saltwater, fish have no choice but […]

Continue Reading →

Ant ‘love’ hormone may help prevent preterm labor in humans

Happy Valentine’s Day! Inotocin is the insect form of the so-called “love” hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin, as you may know, is responsible for inducing labor in pregnant women. A recent study published in Scientific Reports describes the work of a team of researchers that created a synthetic version of inotocin which could bind to both oxytocin and vasopressin receptors in human tissues. Vasopressin is important for preventing water loss in the kidneys, which is how it gets […]

Continue Reading →

The cause of stomach rumbling

The stomach and small intestine of many species moves rhythmically during fasting, something called the rhythmic ‘migrating motor complex’, or MMC. The MMC has 3 phases: no contraction, intermittent small contractions followed by regular large contractions. These contractions are thought to help clean the GI tract by moving along debris and bacteria as well as preparing our guts for the next meal. They are also the cause of ‘stomach rumbles’ when we are hungry. If […]

Continue Reading →