Monday- Grand Challenges in Physiology

Image from the American Physiological Society's website. Image from the American Physiological Society's website.…

As anticipated, the meeting today was excellent! Here are some highlights from today:

Dr. Michael Joyner (Mayo Clinic) spoke about how we should reconsider animal models that are used in research as laboratory rodents can be manipulated to match their genotype to their phenotype. In other words, researchers modify the animal's genome to produce a specific disease or attribute they are interested in studying. The problem with this approach is that genes can be modified by environments and other factors. So drugs that are developed to be successful in the animal models are not always successful in human clinical trials. One example that he gave was a strain of rats that are genetically modified to have fatty livers. Interestingly, if the rats are exercised or if they control calorie intake, they do not develop fatty liver disease. This is a case where the phenotype does not match the genotype.

Dr. Seth Donahue (Colorado State Univ.) talked about how hibernating bears, marmots and ground squirrels are resistant to disuse osteoporosis. Amazing! Here is an example of osteoporosis in the cannon bone of a horse (right) compared to a healthy horse (left):

You can imagine how much weaker the bone on the right is making it more prone to fractures.

Dr. Brian Barnes (Univ Alaska, Fairbanks) presented some interesting data for hibernating arctic ground squirrels. These animals can apparently survive complete lack of blood flow for 45 minutes without developing inflammation or other pathologies (including death) that would be typically expected in other non-hibernating mammals. Amazingly, during torpor their heart rate decreases to only 3 beats per minute (normally 300 beats per minute)!

Dr. Markus Huss (Univ Osnabruck, Germany) presented data on a how a peptide that was isolated from peas may be an effective insecticide. -- I need to plant some peas.

Arnette M, Shelton A, Genz J (Univ West Georgia):  Sea slugs (Elysia clarki) incorporate algae to capture energy created by photosynthesis.

Lillywhite H, Heatwole H, Sheehy III C (Univ Florida; James Cook Univ; North Carolina State Univ): Several species of sea snakes were found to be surprisingly resistant to dehydration even though they drink very little water. The research team also concluded that some species may survive without freshwater in their environments.




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