Author Topic: Brain Proteins Seal Marine Mammal Feats  (Read 5804 times)

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Offline Mankay

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Brain Proteins Seal Marine Mammal Feats
« on: January 02, 2008, 11:09:05 PM »
Specific proteins found in the brains of marine mammals may be behind their ability to stay underwater for long periods without suffering oxygen deprivation.

Even top Olympic swimmers can’t last too long underwater. Our brains need constant oxygen. So why can certain mammals dive underwater for up to 90 minutes without blacking out? The original hypothesis was that they developed physical characteristics such as higher capillary density to deliver more oxygen to the brain. But this idea didn’t play out. So researchers at the University of California at Santa Cruz turned their attention to proteins discovered a few years ago. They’re called neuroglobins and cytoglobins. They’re found in the brain and deliver oxygen to brain tissue, much as hemoglobin carries oxygen in the blood.

Researchers evaluated the quantity of these special oxygen-carrying proteins across 16 mammal species. The swimmers had significantly higher levels, up to ten times as much as those who live on land. Researchers don’t know if certain animals are born with higher brain globins or whether they develop over time. And they also wonder whether these proteins hold clues to brain health and aging. Whales are known to live for as long as two centuries. Perhaps these globins play a part.

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