Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Space Physiology

Speaking of space…’Mighty Mice’ stay mighty muscular in space

While we are on the topic of research conducted by astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS), Space X’s 19th resupply mission to the ISS included studies that might help prevent muscle loss in astronauts as well as humans on Earth. While exercise programs have been developed for astronauts, these programs may not be as useful for long-distance space travel – such as a trip to Mars. This is where […]

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Comparative Physiologist listed among the 100 most influential people of 2020

I was very excited to see Comparative Physiologist and astronaut Jessica Meir listed among Time’s 100 most influential people of 2020. Together with astronaut Christina Koch, who was also named among the top 100, the astronauts performed the first all-female spacewalk at the International Space Station in 2019. In all, the pair completed three spacewalks while aboard the International Space Station. It is hard to imagine how challenging it must […]

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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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Rapid switches in metabolism of hibernating animals

  In a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, researchers examined how changes in metabolism during torpor are regulated in 13-lined ground squirrels (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus). During hibernation, these animals cycle between bouts of torpor (about 2 weeks each) when their metabolism is reduced by 95% and body temperature can drop to 5degC and short states of interbout euthermia when both temperature […]

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Editor’s picks for 2018

The Editor’s Picks for 2018 have been released for the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. According to the editorial team, the focus of this journal is on “the regulation of whole organismal function that requires the interplay of multiple organ and tissue systems.” The top comparative physiology articles of 2018 included: An article by Hersh et al., who provided evidence that little skates may be useful […]

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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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Sleep vs torpor

  I read an interesting review article published in Physiology comparing the low metabolic states of non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM) and torpor. According to the article, all mammals experience NREM sleep patterns during which energy expenditure is decreased and body as well as brain temperatures decline. Animals that experience torpor (hummingbirds, arctic ground squirrels, some mice, bears, etc) have reduced metabolic rates and body temperatures that dip below baseline. NREM […]

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2018 Winners

I am pleased to showcase this year’s Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology Section (CEPS)  award recipients at the Experimental Biology conference. Winners received their awards at the CEPS banquet last week. In earlier posts, I introduced this year’s Dr. Dolittle Travel awardee as well as Dr. Stanley Hillman, this year’s August Krogh Distinguished Lecturer. Here are the rest of award recipients: The New Investigator Award was earned by Dr. Allyson Hindle […]

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Extreme Physiology: Radiation Tolerance

  Don’t let their small size fool you. Tardigrades, or ‘water bears’, are really tough animals. According to a review published in the American Scientist, these microscopic invertebrates can survive extreme variations in temperature from near absolute zero (-459 deg F) up to +302 deg F. They can also tolerate pressures that are 6 times greater than the deepest ocean, exposure to ionizing radiation (UV and x-ray) and the vacuum of space, as well as exposure to […]

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Preventing muscle wasting in space?

I recently went on a trip to visit the Endeavour space shuttle currently on display in Los Angeles. Seeing the shuttle up close brought back memories of watching the space shuttle launches on TV and the childhood dream of visiting other planets…a dream that also inspires Hollywood to continue to produce movies and TV shows about space exploration. Turns out, The Martian movie may soon become reality. In fact, NASA is working towards sending astronauts to […]

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