Here are the highlights from the final day of the meeting:
Carbon monoxide (CO) is not all that bad: Michael Tift, graduate student at Scripps Institute of Oceanography, described how the body naturally produces CO when red blood cells are broken down and CO can actually be protective against inflammation at low doses. His research was focused on measuring whether species that have more hemoglobin (from living in hypoxic environments) also have more CO. As it turns out, people native to high-altitude Peru do have higher CO levels than those living at lower elevations. Likewise, elephant seals and beluga whales have higher hemoglobin content and produce more CO than marine mammals with lower hemoglobin levels.
Hypoxia can increase lifespan: Dr. Kendra Greenlee, from North Dakota State University, presented research from her lab showing that bees (Megachile rotundata) raised in hypoxic conditions live 2 times longer than bees raised in normal conditions. Her research is geared towards figuring out how hypoxia can increase longevity.
Lastly, this year’s Nobel speaker was Dr. Louis Ignarro, from the Department of Pharmacology at the UCLA School of Medicine. He was one of three awardees of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries “concerning nitric oxide as a signalling molecule in the cardiovascular system.” Dr. Ferid Murad was credited with figuring out how nitrous oxide and nitroglycerin cause blood vessels to dilate. Dr. Ignarro and Dr. Robert Furchgott were both credited with their independent discoveries that nitric oxide is also released from the inner lining of blood vessels to cause the vessels to dilate. Together, their independent discoveries have led to the development of several medications that are used to treat cardiovascular disease as well as impotence.