Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Will Santa have to find replacements for his reindeer?

New research presented at the British Ecological Society, Liverpool shows that reindeer are shrinking. These findings come from a survey conducted between 1994-2010 in Svalbard, a Norwegian island, which found the animals have lost about 12% of their body mass over this timeframe. The research team thinks the shrinking reindeer phenomenon might be caused by global warming as females have increased access to grasslands and give birth to more calves annually than in […]

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Why monkeys don’t speak English

… or any other human language for that matter. Even though both monkeys and humans have the anatomical tools for speech, only humans communicate in this manner. Researchers had assumed, incorrectly, that the anatomy of the vocal tract (lips, tongue, larynx) of monkeys was not capable of producing speech. A new study published in Science Advances shows instead that it is all in our heads. The researchers came to this conclusion after creating x-ray videos […]

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Effects of environmental temperature on fruit flies

A changing climate has the potential to greatly impact ectotherms, which depend on the environment to regulate their own body temperatures. In a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology- Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, researchers were curious how exposure to varying temperatures would affect developing ectotherms. They answered this question using Drosophila melanogaster, commonly known as fruit flies. They exposed freshly laid eggs to ten different temperatures ranging from 12 […]

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Reindeers may pave way for discovery of nerve regeneration techniques for humans

I came across a neat article in Scientific American that described how reindeer and elk regrow their antlers every year. Could you imagine putting that much energy into growing new bone each year complete with a velvety cover containing nerves, skin, and blood vessels? Although full-grown antlers lose their blood supply and animals scrape the velvet layer off to reveal just bone. Researchers have explored whether understanding this amazing process of […]

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Eating saturated fat is bad for the brain

I know this is not a comparative physiology topic, but this article caught my attention as I know I just ate a rather high fat meal last week for Thanksgiving and I plan to do the same throughout the holiday season. Insulin does more than just lowering blood sugar by increasing its uptake into tissues. It can also increase blood flow to the hippocampal region of the brain to help […]

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Cat-tongues inspire new technology?

If you have ever been licked by a cat, you have experienced just how scratchy their tongues are. If you have not had the pleasure, it is much like being licked by a piece of Velcro. In fact, Mechanical Engineer Alexis Noel (Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta) recently described the tiny claw-like structures on a cat’s tongue after observing a cat getting its tongue stuck on a blanket. Her research team decided to create […]

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Restoring locomotion in primates with spinal cord injuries

Pioneering research being conducted by Dr. Gregoire Courtine (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology – Lausanne) may enable paralyzed humans to walk again someday. Through his collaborative research with a lab in Beijing China, he has developed a wireless brain implant that detects signals in the brain and then sends these signals to electrodes implanted in the lower spine (below the injured region) of the animals. This technology allows the brain signals to […]

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