Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Nature’s Solutions

Nature’s architects

Nature has already solved many problems that doctors, researchers, and architects are still trying to solve for humans. For example, some of our prior posts have talked about how some animals are resistant to developing cancer: Elephants Tasmanian devils Naked mole rats Other animals have developed special nano antibodies (nanobodies) to fight disease. Llamas While several are tolerant of very low oxygen levels in the environment, others are champions of […]

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Getting away from salt – the transition to life on land

The transition of vertebrates from the salty ocean to life on land required the ability for these animals to change how they dealt with salt. While salt is essential for many cellular functions, salt balance must be tightly regulated to prevent illness or even death. Animals that live in a salty environment have evolved the ability to get rid of excess salt from their bodies whereas land-dwelling animals evolved the […]

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Why being ‘bird-brained’ may actually be a compliment

It has long been suspected that birds (and reptiles) were not very smart because they lack a neocortex – the part of the brain that is responsible for working memory, perception, problem solving, and conscious thought in mammals. In stark contrast to this idea, studies have repeatedly shown that several species of birds have very good memories as well as planning and problem solving skills (see examples below), which has […]

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Your dog’s internal compass

Apparently pooping is not the only thing dogs do that align with the Earth’s magnetic field. Hunting dogs are kind of like migratory birds in their ability to roam and find their way back to the same spot, while relying on the Earth’s magnetic field. In a new study published in eLife, the same researchers that discovered how dogs prefer to poop found that hunting dogs appear to use the […]

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Researchers discover cause of hearing loss in an underground dweller

Naked mole rats are rather extreme animals in many ways. As underground dwellers, they live in chronically hypoxic environments and are blind. These animals also age more slowly than other mammals and are resistant to developing cancer even though they are long-lived. Did you also know, they are hard of hearing? In a new study published in Current Biology, researchers have discovered the cause of their hearing loss. The inner […]

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Researchers explore why wild canids live longer than domestic dogs and why size matters

Ever wonder why some breeds of dogs live longer than others? Or why wild canids, such as gray wolves, live longer than similar sized domesticated dogs (20.6 vs 10-12 years)? Drs. Ana Jimenez (Colgate University, New York) and Dr. Cynthia Downs (State University of New York, Syracuse) teamed up to examine a common marker of aging in animals – oxidative stress. Oxidative stress happens when there is a build-up of […]

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It’s shark week!! Let’s talk about the spiny dogfish

I am so excited it is finally Shark Week on Discovery Channel! I look forward to this week every year. In honor of Shark Week, I found a neat study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology examining the rectal gland of the spiny dogfish shark (Squalus acanthias). This gland is very important as it allows the animals to get rid of salt (sodium […]

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Llamas to the rescue?

A couple years back, we talked about how nanobodies created by camelids, such as alpacas and llamas, may lead to the discovery of new disease-fighting drugs. Aptly named, nanobodies are tiny pieces of antibodies that can bind to target proteins more easily than larger antibodies. Researchers in labs around the world are now exploring llama nanobodies for the treatment of Covid-19. Check out the video below released this month by […]

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Cholesterol levels in tissues change during hypoxia in naked mole rats

Naked mole rats are rather famous from a physiological perspective for their amazing ability to live in hypoxic conditions. They do so in part by reducing their metabolic rate. In fact, researchers at the University of Ottawa in Canada showed that reducing environmental oxygen levels to 11% resulted in a 34% decrease in the animal’s metabolic rate. Studies of hypoxia-tolerant goldfish show that the animals respond to hypoxia challenges by […]

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Exploring how temperature impacts the characteristics of animals

We are delighted to speak with Dr. Casey Mueller who is currently an Assistant Professor at California State University San Marcos. Dr. Mueller is a member of the Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology section of the American Physiological Society and was scheduled to present her research at the 2020 Experimental Biology conference last month. Unfortunately, the conference was cancelled due to Covid-19. Her researchappears in the May issue of the FASEB […]

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