Songbird-body changes that allow migration may have human health implications

ScienceDaily | 4/25/2019 | Staff
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"Imagine if you became morbidly obese before running a marathon, you didn't sleep for a few days before competing -- and you performed so well that you win," said lead researcher Paul Bartell, associate professor of avian biology. "Then, consider that you were protected from the cardiovascular and metabolic disease that normally would result from either obesity or long-term sleep deprivation. That's the example I like to use to illustrate how amazing the changes are that occur in these birds to allow migration." Although similar changes occur in other songbirds that make their migration flights at night, the species that Bartell refers to is the white-throated sparrow. His research group, based in the College of Agricultural Sciences, studied the birds' physiological mechanisms that confer protection against the consequences of sleep deprivation while simultaneously allowing for the increased physical performance required for migration.

Many birds undertake long, biannual, migratory voyages during the night, Bartell noted, and during these times of the year birds drastically reduce their amount of sleep, yet curiously perform as well on tests of physical and cognitive performance as during non-migrating times of the year. This inherent physiological protection disappears when birds are forced to stay awake at other times of the year, so these protective changes only are associated with the nocturnal migratory state.

Manifestation - Migratory - Changes - Researchers - RNA-sequence

To see the physical manifestation of migratory changes, researchers performed RNA-sequence analyses of heart and liver tissues collected from birds at different times of day under different migratory states and evaluated the data using genetic analysis. They identified changes in gene expression implicating multiple systems and pathways that regulate many aspects of metabolism, immune function, wound repair and protection of multiple organ systems.

"We picked the heart and liver because the heart is a good representative of cardiovascular system output and the liver reflects the chemical...
(Excerpt) Read more at: ScienceDaily
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