Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Understanding stress-induced miscarriage and premature delivery

  Stress during late pregnancy may result in premature delivery or stillbirth. A new study of pregnant Rambouillet cross ewes, published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, was designed to understand why lambs succumb to stress late in pregnancy. They found that while arterial blood pressure and heart rates were normal during late gestation (final 2 weeks before birth) in fetuses from pregnant ewes with elevated stress hormones, fetal heart rate and aortic blood pressure declined on the day […]

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Caffeine and memory…wait what was I saying?

Personally, I would have a hard time functioning in the morning without coffee. I think many people might agree as caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive stimulant worldwide.  The stimulant effects of caffeine are attributed to its ability to bind to and inhibit adenosine receptors in the body, resulting in increased excitation of neurons: Long term potentiation (LTP) refers to an increase in the strength of connections formed between […]

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Making antibodies faster

Camelids (think llamas, alpacas and of course, camels) produce rather special antibodies that are highly sought after for research and biomedical applications. Nanobodies are small fragments of camelid antibodies that retain the ability to identify specific proteins. Because they are so small, they can bind to segments of proteins that intact or larger antibodies are unable to contact. This is what makes them attractive candidates in the search for new […]

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“Shirley Temple” protein found in platypus milk may help fight drug-resistant bacteria

Platypuses are rather bizarre mammals. For one, they lay eggs and although they feed their young milk, they sweat this milk from glands on their belly. Because the young lap up the milk and they live in burrows, they are exposed to microbes at a very young age. Like many mammals, platypus milk has antibiotic properties to help protect the young. However, the antibiotic protein found in platypus milk appears […]

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Tapeworms treat IBD?

Okay, I realize this is not a comparative physiology topic. But after reading this article, I just had to share it. A new study published in American Journal of Physiology – Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology presented data suggesting that parasitic worms may help treat or even prevent inflammatory bowl disease (IBD) in children. IBD is a condition characterized by inflammation in the gut that can lead to symptoms such as diarrhea […]

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Stem cell implant regrows axons in monkeys with spinal cord injury

  A new study published yesterday in Nature Medicine, presents research showing that grafting human neural stem cells into the spine of rhesus monkeys with recent spinal cord injuries improves the animal’s ability to grasp oranges. The researchers found that grafted stem cells matured into neurons (image below) that began connecting with the monkey’s existing neurons. This was the first time this type of research was performed in primates and may thus […]

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Individuality in woodpeckers

Animals, like people, have unique sounds that allow them to recognize individuals. For example, you can hear a great spotted woodpecker calling in the first portion of this YouTube video below. In another YouTube video, we see a great spotted woodpecker doing what woodpeckers do best…pecking at wood. Woodpeckers peck (i.e. drum) to ward off rivals as well as attract mates. In a new study published in PLoS ONE, researchers examined […]

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