Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Physiology on the Road

Mourning doves do not need to watch their figures

So jealous. Research presented by Anthony Basile, graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Karen Sweazea at Arizona State University, at Experimental Biology 2019 examined how mourning doves would respond to a diet high in saturated fats. He reported on how mice fed a similar diet develop pathological changes in hormones and metabolism, as would be expected. But, doves fed a similar diet did not seem to show any notable […]

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Dietary carotenoids and oxidative stress- What can we learn from birds?

Congratulations to this year’s Dr. Dolittle Travel Award winner, Alex Mohr from Arizona State University! Alex is presenting his research at the annual Experimental Biology conference in Orlando, FL (Mohr AE, Girard M, Rowe M, McGraw KJ, Sweazea KL. Varied Effects of Dietary Carotenoid Supplementation on Oxidative Damage in Tissues of Two Waterfowl Species).  Here is his award-winning blog entry describing his research on carotenoids in ducks: In relation to tissue […]

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How ground squirrels recycle nitrogen

Hibernation is a rather remarkable strategy some animals use to survive winter when food availability is limited. Dr. Matthew Regan, a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Hannah Carey at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, presented research at the Experimental Biology 2019 conference today that explored how 13-lined ground squirrels (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus) regulate protein metabolism during hibernation. What is remarkable about 13-lined ground squirrels in particular is that they […]

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Alcoholic Fish

As I prepare to leave the great city of New Orleans at the end of a fabulous conference, I can’t help but mention one final poster that I saw titled, “Depressing mitochondrial function during paradoxical anaerobism leads to an alcoholic fish.” It seemed appropriate given our conference hotel was on Bourbon Street. This poster, presented by Dr. Stanley Hillyard (University of Nevada – Las Vegas) examined desert pupfish (Cyprinodon spp). […]

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What do hibernating animals and astronauts have in common?

Well, nothing yet…but imagine the possibilities of human spaceflight if we could put people into a form of stasis? While short term stasis-like states have been used in medical settings, the idea of putting people into stasis to allow long term space travel – without intensive physician oversight, remains a major goal of space agencies and companies like Spaceworks (above). Scientists at the Comparative Physiology meeting considered this very question, […]

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Dangers of eating greens

Dr. Kevin Kohl (University of Pittsburgh) gave an interesting talk at the conference on the various dangers of eating plants. Aside from having low protein content and large quantities of indigestible fibers, plants are great sources of toxic chemicals. Remarkably, many animals have evolved to eat plants that may be toxic to other animals. Research by Dr. Kohl suggests that the gut microbiome of these animals may have evolved to […]

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Improving tissue integrity for transplants

Ground squirrels are known for their remarkable ability to tolerate hypothermic conditions. Humans are not. Dr. JingXing Ou (National Institutes of Health) presented an interesting talk that explored using induced pluripotent neuronal stem cells isolated from these mammalian hibernators to improve tissue integrity for organ transplants. By understanding which pathways protected ground squirrel cells from cold-damage, these pathways could be manipulated in human induced pluripotent neuronal stem cells and improve […]

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Longevity of dogs

Dogs are weird when it comes to predicting longevity based on body size. For many species, small body size means higher metabolic rate and shorter lifespan. For dogs, smaller body size = longer lifespan. Dr. Ana Jimenez (Colgate University) presented research at the Comparative Physiology meeting this weekend showing that larger dogs do indeed develop more DNA damage with aging than smaller dogs.

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Hypoxia and anoxia and reoxygenation, Oh my!

There are many examples of animals that can naturally tolerate hypoxic and anoxic conditions without exhibiting pathologies associated with reoxygenation. Here are a few examples from this year’s conference: Dr. Anthony Signore (University of Nebraska) spoke about how some hypoxia tolerant animals can use carbon monoxide, you know that gas we think of as poisonous, to improve oxygen binding to hemoglobin in hypoxic conditions. Well known for their ability to […]

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Parasite-induced metabolic disease

Dr. Rudolf Schilder (Penn State University) presented a poster yesterday reporting that male dragonflies (Libellula pulchella) are developing infection-induced metabolic disease that is similar to type 2 diabetes and obesity in vertebrates. The culprit? A protozoan parasite in the animal’s gut. It makes you wonder if parasites may be to blame for some metabolic disease cases in humans…

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