Pandas are closely related to carnivorous mammals (like all the other bears), but they consume mostly bamboo. Their digestive tracts are short and adapted for digesting meat, not cellulose that is found in plants. In fact, they only digest about 20% of all the bamboo they eat, and they eat a lot of bamboo (30-60 … Continue reading Pandas are lazy!
The human microbiome is a hot topic in biology these days. It is becoming clear that the microbes living in and on our body can have major consequences for our health and happiness. In fact, abnormalities in the gut microbiome may underlie one of the great medical mysteries of our time: autism. That some bacteria … Continue reading Probiotics for autism
Humans are able to live in so many different climates, in a wide range of temperatures and yet our inner core body temperature remains nearly constant. This ability to thermoregulate has something to do, of course, with clothing and the ability to cool and heat our living spaces, but our bodies also offer many adaptations … Continue reading Throw another adipocyte on the fire
This week’s paper describes a new technique that could be used to manipulate human oocytes (i.e. eggs) to prevent a group of diseases called mitochondrial diseases. The paper was presented by Tachibana et al. in Nature along with a similar paper by Paull et al. For the sake of brevity, I will only discuss the … Continue reading Swapping eggs
I am finally back from a very busy semester. I taught physiology classes at Mills College and UC Berkeley this semester, so I have been interested in new topics in human physiology. This week’s paper by Schippers et al. came out recently in Current Biology and describes adaptations that mice must make in order to … Continue reading Burning carbs in the Andes
There is a growing epidemic of obesity in the aging population. Of course a lot of this has to do with our cultural lifestyle, but could there also be a biological explanation related to the way our bodies age? One clue comes from the fact that older lab mice have a tendency to become obese, … Continue reading A biological reason for aging weight gain