Sunday, April 25, 2010

Experimental Biology - first morning

It is conference time for physiologists. Experimental Biology is by far the largest meeting for physiologists, and this year it's in Anaheim, California, right beside Disney Land. Now it's the morning of the second day. It is 5.30am and I can't sleep.

It started yesterday with the traditional refresher course. I feel a little bad for them, because I just couldn't take four hours of sitting down, so I only stayed for the first two and a half - even though the last talk looked like lots of fun. Of course, now in the days of the internet, I can just go and listen to the recording at

The first two were really good, Donna Korzick talked about how:

"The Heart Develops Pressure, And Pressure Makes the Blood 'Go Round"

Which turned out to be mostly charge excitation coupling and pacemaker activity, including some exciting new data on how local calcium releases actually drives the slow depolarisation (see Lakatta et al, Circ Res, 106: 659-673, 2010).

Then Philip Clifford talked about "Local control of blood flow." He showed some really nifty confocal images of vascular structure and then talked about autoregulation. Not proper, renal autoregulation, but the sloppy kind you find in other organs. Most interestingly he pointed out that the myogenic response is a quite slow mechanism in muscle tissue, for example. Taking somewhere around two minutes to return blood flow to normal after a perturbation. In the kidney, bloodflow quickly stabilizes (20-30 seconds) following a perturbation. Although some of this is probably because of interactions between the myogenic response and the tubuloglomerular feedback, I think I brought home that myogenic response is faster in the kidney.

The afternoon brought a guest appearance of renal circulatory physiology at the micro circulatory society. You might call it a refresher course in renal autoregulation and afferent arteriolar function provided by the usual suspects, Arendshorst, Peti-Peterdi, Inscho. There was a small detour to the medulla. Pallone presented some very interesting data on how water shunting from the descending vasa recta to the ascending helps increase the concentrating capacity.

Last of the days lectures was the Walter B. Cannon memorial award lecture. This year it was awarded to JJ. Fredberd of the Harvard School of Public Health, an engineer who works in pulmonary physiology and probably wil receive the Nobel Prize in medicine for his evolutionary findings. A fantastic lecture, where he presented more novel ideas (with supporting data) in less time than anyone I have met in recent memory. In short, cells are soft as shaving foam because it makes them capable of eating their neighbours and/or crawling around. This explains the development of the eucaryote. I will have to study this for years before I understand it, maybe I will attempt a post on the implications for renal physiology at some later time.

Finally it was time for the free food and free beer, i.e. the opening reception.

The time when the breakfast buffet opens is approaching and I have to go.


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