Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Nature’s Solutions

Physiology of diving animals: how do they deal with hypoxia?

Dr. Jose Pablo Vazquez-Medina (pictured at right), a comparative physiologist at the University of California – Berkeley, was scheduled to present several ongoing studies from his lab at the Experimental Biology conference last month. Dr. Vazquez-Medina is a member of the Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology section of the American Physiological Society. Although the conference was cancelled due to Covid-19, Dr. Vazquez-Medina has agreed to share his research with us.   […]

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Dolphins can develop similar neurological diseases as humans

I am pretty sure most people would agree that dolphins are pretty smart. But did you know that they may develop similar neurological conditions as humans? I read an interesting article published in Drug Target Review exploring how dolphins that have washed up on beaches may help us understand neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s as well as responses to viral infections. For example, Dolphin morbillivirus (DMV) is a virus similar to […]

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Role of phoenixin-20 in regulating appetite and glucose metabolism

Phoenixin-20 is a small peptide that has been detected in mammals, birds, amphibians and fish. Studies have shown that it can modify reproductive processes in female mammals and fish. In addition, it has been shown in mammalian studies to act as a pain reducer and modulator of food intake. In a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, researchers explored whether phoenixin-20 has […]

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Evolution of pain resistance

Could you imagine eating a pile of chile peppers or spicy hot mustard and not feeling any pain? The ability to sense pain is physiologically quite important as it alerts us to potentially dangerous or poisonous chemicals. Many plants (stinging nettles, pungent bulbs, hot chilies) and animals (stinging ants, scorpions, snakes) produce noxious chemicals to protect themselves from predators. In turn, some predators have evolved resistance to these chemicals. An […]

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The key to the fountain of youth?

I just read an interesting article on the physiology of long-lived species that was published in Physiology. Some animals seem to have discovered the secret to the fountain of youth. Take the long-lived naked mole rat (Heterocephalus glaber) for example. These animals are able to maintain juvenile traits across their lifespan by growing slowly, having low levels of hormones responsible for development and delaying the onset of sexual maturity. Dwarf […]

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Tardigrades are not so tolerant after all

…at least when it comes to dealing with warming temperatures. In contrast to their reputation for being able to withstand almost any extreme environment (radiation, cold, drought, vaccuum of space), researchers at the University of Copenhagen have found that tardigrades may have an Achilles heal. They appear intolerant of sustained increases in temperature.  Study author Dr. Ricardo Neves was quoted in Science Daily, “The specimens used in this study were […]

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Bee sting therapy – revisited

Bee sting therapy has been getting a lot of buzz lately. I have received a lot of questions about applications of so-called apitherapy to conditions other than multiple sclerosis, which we discussed awhile back. Let’s review the more recent evidence… While the practice of apitherapy dates back 5000+ years, only recently has this potential therapy been scientifically investigated. According to a recent review, bee venom has several peptides as well […]

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Regenerating limbs…and heads

Mandy M. Schofield, Christian A. Okafor, and Jack D. Shepard from Towson University presented an interesting poster at the 6th annual Greater Washington DC Area Physiological Society on how planarians are a useful “Model Organism for Investigation and Education.” Planarians are indeed very interesting little animals. They have remarkable abilities to regenerate as shown in this YouTube video: Aside from this impressive ability and its application to limb regeneration, planaria […]

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Understanding cardiomyopathy through drosophila

Courtney Petersen presented her research at the 6th annual Greater Washington DC Area Physiological Society conference today. This research was conducted with Dr. Matthew Wolf at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and Dr. Jeremy Smyth at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Maryland. Courtney’s research was focused on cardiomyopathy, which is a disease of the heart’s muscle that can make it harder for the heart to pump blood […]

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Importance of retaining sodium for land vertebrates

Peter Fuller from the Hudson Institute of Medical Research, gave an interesting talk this morning at the 9th Aldosterone and ENaC in Health and Disease: The Kidney and Beyond Conference. His talk focuses on the evolution of the mineralocorticoid receptor in vertebrates. For animals living on land, the receptor responds mainly to the hormone aldosterone. The receptor can also bind the stress hormone cortisol and the sex hormone progesterone, although progesterone binding inhibits the receptor. […]

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