Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Experimental Biology – Day 2

Yesterday was a great day for comparative physiology! Highlights from the seminars on comparative physiology: Melissa Reiterer, graduate student from Florida Atlantic University, presented her research on how freshwater turtles (Trachemys scripta) survive for long periods of time without oxygen and do not develop oxidative stress after oxygen is restored. The turtles are able to do this by creating their own antioxidants as well as eliminating oxidative stress. In contrast, mammals including humans, develop […]

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Experimental Biology – Day 1

  Day 1 of the meeting was as inspiring as usual. The Porter Fellow Reunion Reception took place this evening. This 50 year-old program is designed to support trainees as they conduct research projects in physiology and learn to become independent researchers. It was amazing to see so many past and present fellows and to hear about their accomplishments since receiving the award. Following the Porter reception, I moseyed on over to the Walter B. Cannon memorial lecture. […]

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Synthetic peptide inspired by Komodo dragon blood speeds wound healing

  Researchers at George Mason University have created a synthetic version of a peptide found in the blood of Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis). They dubbed the synthetic peptide DRGN-1. Living up to its name, DRGN-1 proved to be pretty tough against microbes (Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus) as well as biofilms. Bacteria stick together to create biofilms that attach to surfaces and help to protect themselves during an infection. Even infected wounds healed faster when they were treated […]

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Obese rhesus monkeys develop diabetes too

  A new study published in American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism shows that rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) who spontaneously develop obesity with aging are prone to insulin resistance and diabetes, similar to humans. The major goal of insulin is to lower blood sugar after eating a meal. In line with this goal, muscles respond to insulin by taking up large amounts of the sugar. Similarly, insulin blocks the breakdown of […]

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Zebra finches reward themselves for singing well

Dopamine is an important hormone released from neurons involved in reward pathways. Researchers at Cornell University wanted to know if dopamine signaling was involved in how birds learn songs. Their findings, recently published in Science, present evidence that neurons in the brain of zebra finches do in fact decrease dopamine signals when the birds hear an error in their song in comparison to when they sing ‘correctly’. The researchers also found […]

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Secrets to Longevity

A new article published in Physiological Reviews compared some remarkable similarities and differences between naked mole rats and humans. Both are relatively long-lived, highly social and have low natural selection pressures. But, this is about all they have in common. While humans are prone to developing age-related cancer, diabetes, heart disease and dementias, naked mole rats are rather resistant to these diseases. Instead, naked mole rats appear to maintain a youthful […]

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What do frogs and humans have in common?

Leptin is a hormone that signals the brain to suppress appetite in humans. While researchers at the University of Michigan described a similar appetite regulating role for leptin in South African clawed frogs (Xenopus), they also discovered that leptin signals limb development in tadpoles. They suspect that this happens once there are sufficient energy stores to begin the process of metamorphosis. Shalitin and Kiess (2017) also described a role for leptin in skeletal development of children and researchers implicate leptin in […]

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