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Oct 9

Exploring extreme cardiovascular adaptions of Antarctic Weddell seals

Dr. Allyson Hindle is an ACCCR researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital and an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School.

Monday, October 9th, 2017
3:30 – 4:30 pm / Olin 141
Allyson G. Hindle, PhD
Seals are physiologically specialized to exploit prey resources below the ocean surface through extended breath-hold diving. The dive response includes remarkable cardiovascular control, managed regional blood flow based on metabolic need, and an ability to sustain periods without oxygen. This physiology is extreme among mammals; the hearts and brains of seals are protected from hypoxic injury that would be detrimental to terrestrial species, including humans. To identify the molecular mechanisms that underlie the seal’s natural protection in the heart and brain, we have sequenced the genome of a champion diver, the Weddell seal of Antarctica. Using this new genomic resource, we can identify unique gene regulation, proteins that functionally differ in seal tissues, and we can make the tools necessary to test this system in cell culture. Because diving ability defines and limits the role of marine mammals in their ecosystem, we can apply a mechanistic understanding of the dive response to understand the ability of these species to respond to natural and anthropogenic disturbance. In future, these insights also have tremendous potential or human medicine, pointing to novel therapies for cardiovascular trauma (stroke, heart attack) and diseases associated with tissue hypoxia (pneumonia, sepsis, cancer).

Sponsored by Biology. Contact: Stephan Zweifel, x4385