Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Fasting as a survival strategy in animals

Although female northern elephant seals only typically deliver one pup, females will sometimes nurse offspring from other mothers as in this photo by Brocken Inaglory via Wikimedia commons. A situation like this would result in less milk available to each nursing pup. I just read an interesting paper published in Physiology. Animals periodically undergo periods of food deprivation such as during hibernation, mating, molting and migration. During these period of […]

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People with diabetes have less sRAGE

When blood sugar concentrations are elevated, humans run the risk of glucose binding to proteins in the blood and causing the irreversible formation of advanced glycation end products (AGE). Once formed, AGEs can bind to their receptor (RAGE) and stimulate inflammation and oxidative stress. This pathological signaling can be stopped by pieces of the RAGE protein that break off and form a soluble version called sRAGE. These soluble versions of […]

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Do Mexican cavefish hold the secret to treating diabetes?

Mexican tetra (Astyanax mexicanus) are a fascinating example of divergent evolution. Over time, some of these freshwater river fish washed into caves where they continue to live. With perpetual darkness, these cavefish have lost their ability to see along with their skin pigmentation. Oxygen and food are also hard to come by in the caves. In fact, the cave dwelling fish may go for months without eating as they wait […]

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Viral defenses are encoded in their genes, but not ours

Through the course of evolution vertebrates have apparently lost their gene-encoded viral defense mechanisms. These ancient defenses allow plants and insects to silence the expression of certain genes by using what is known as RNA interference. This natural defense system can be manipulated to create genetically modified crops that resist certain infections. However, a new study by researchers from the University of Leuven in Belgium examined over 40 organisms in […]

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The marsupial placenta

When I think of marsupials, what comes to mind is an image of a mother carrying her young (joey) in a pouch. Contrary to popular belief, however, mother tammar wallabies (Macropus eugenii) have an internal functioning placenta. Albeit, it only develops near the end of their short pregnancy (a mere 26.5 days), just before the developing offspring moves from the uterus to the pouch for further development and nursing. A […]

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Attempts to save Houston’s bats

Got bugs? Get a bat. As many species of bats are insectivores, they help keep insect populations in check. Hurricane Harvey has been devastating to people, animals and property. So it probably comes as no surprise that there are many volunteers dedicating their time to saving animals displaced by Hurricane Harvey as well. From squirrels, cats and dogs to…you guessed it…bats. It turns out that bats are not very good […]

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White Nose Syndrome – What do we know now?

You may recall prior Lifelines posts discussing the devastating effects of white nose syndrome (WNS) in bats. WNS, Pseudogymnoascus destructans is a fungus responsible for the deaths of millions of North American bats over the last ten years. In a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, Dr. Craig Willis examined the effects of repeated arousals from hibernation induced by the fungal infection. […]

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