Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Metabolic costs of reproduction, eating, and increasing temperatures

Planarians are rather cute little flatworms, although they tend to wreak havoc in fish tanks. Researchers have long been fascinated by their ability to regenerate body parts when injured with the help of adult stem cells. More recently, they have gained attention for their ability to survive long periods of time without eating by “degrowing”, i.e. getting smaller but still keeping their shape and functions intact. I would shrink too […]

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Could the ocean hold a cure for Covid-19?

In searching for treatments for Covid-19, researchers discovered that a cancer drug called Aplidin (aka: Plitidepsin), originally isolated from Mediterranean sea squirts, was up to 27.5 times more effective at killing the virus in cell cultures than the FDA-approved drug Remdesivir! Importantly, it was also shown to be effective at preventing the virus from replicating in mice. Sources: Youtube KM White, R Rosales, S Yildiz, T Kehrer, L Miorin, E […]

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How exercise training and diet may impact exercise performance

Both diet and exercise training are associated with muscle performance and endurance. Migratory birds undergo intense endurance exercise. In fact, a recent review indicated that flapping flight costs more energy (9 x increase from basal metabolic rate) than required by elite athletes competing in the Tour de France (4.3 x increase from basal metabolic rate) (Butler, 2016). Unlike running animals, migratory birds fuel endurance exercise with fats as opposed to […]

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Take Time for Activity Snacks

There went another day spent sitting at my computer in virtual meetings with easily accessible snacks in the kitchen nearby. Okay, granted this is not a comparative physiology topic. But it is something many of us can relate to in this age of Covid-19. In a new study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers explored what happens when people seek out so-called “activity snacks” instead of the salty […]

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Dwarfism documented for first time in wild giraffes

A disorder affecting the normal development of cartilage and bone has been observed in wild giraffes. While skeletal dysplasia, or dwarfism, has been observed in captive and domestic animals such as dogs, cows, rats, pigs and marmosets, it is not often seen in wild animals. In a new study, researchers used photography to document the condition for the first time in a wild Nubian giraffe calf (Giraffa camelopardalis camelopardalis) in […]

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Even the brainless need sleep

Most animals that we know of sleep. Sleep is very important for a healthy brain and our brains are important in regulating sleep. Interestingly, recent studies have shown that the cerebrospinal fluid actually washes out toxins from the brain when we get enough sleep at night. That “rinse cycle” so to speak is the brain’s way of staying healthy and is thought to prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. You may […]

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Top New Species in 2020

I think most of us can agree that we are delighted to see the end of 2020. As we say good riddance and look forward to a brighter future, I thought it would be fun to consider one of the positive aspects of this past year by taking a peek at some of my favorite newly discovered or described species in 2020. Achalinus zugorum While there are many species of […]

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Are humans really just upright cats?

Okay seriously, humans are not actually cats. But, humans and cats do share similar nervous system control over how we move from one place to another, i.e. locomotion as described in a recent review article published in Physiology. The ability for mammals to finely control movement depends on two main control systems located in the brain and spine as well as sensory feedback from the skin, muscles, tendons, eyes, and […]

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Extreme Fasting

While giant pandas roll in horse manure to stay warm in the winter (that’s a different story), other animals spend up to 8 months hibernating to conserve energy during times of reduced food availability and freezing temperatures. During their long winter’s nap, animals such as the Arctic ground squirrel and 13-lined ground squirrel go without food or water while at the same time avoiding muscle wasting – a rather impressive […]

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The evolution of sugar addiction

I have been opening Christmas cards and pondering the science of sugar addiction, admittedly while snacking on sugar cookies – ‘tis the season after all! Excess consumption of highly palatable (i.e. quite tasty) foods as well as sedentary lifestyles are thought to be at the root of the current obesity epidemic. In fact, it is thought that as many as 30% of people living in developed countries are either overweight […]

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