Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Manatee eyes could be window to health status

22.06.2005


Tear samples from manatees could reveal health threats



For Florida manatees, the eyes may have it, say University of Florida researchers studying whether the mammals’ unusually thick tear film helps protect against disease and could be used to gauge the endangered sea cows’ ability to fight stress from cold water temperatures.

Manatees depend on both natural and artificial warm water refuges like those found near coal-burning power plants to survive cold winters. As older coal-burning power plants are phased out in the next 10 to 20 years, researchers fear chronic exposure to cooler waters could weaken the large herbivores’ immune system, and they could sicken or even die.


By sampling manatees’ tear film in addition to performing other standard tests, scientists think they might be able to more efficiently evaluate manatees’ immune system function and better determine strategies for rescue, treatment and rehabilitation.

The current tear analysis project, believed to be the first of its kind, builds on work UF veterinary scientists published recently in the journal Veterinary Ophthalmology that described the abundance of blood vessels found in manatee corneas. Blood vessels could have a tendency to move into the cornea to supply oxygen because the tear film creates a barrier so thick that oxygen present in air can’t penetrate it, said Don Samuelson, Ph.D., a professor of ophthalmology in the Marine Mammal Medicine program at UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

Manatees are believed to have the thickest tear film of any sea mammal, and possibly of any animal, Samuelson said. In general, mammals produce tears to protect against infection, because the eye itself does not have immune system components.

"Through this protection against the potential for infection, the manatee is able to enter murky waters just rich with potential pathogens," Samuelson said. "For that reason, we think this very thick tear film, undoubtedly rich with antimicrobial components, serves to protect in areas that could otherwise be devastating."

Researchers speculate that tears, which can be collected without removing manatees from the water using a small, soft cotton swab, may one day be used along with or instead of blood tests to assess health status and to gauge whether the mammals were recently exposed to health threats such as red tide. Ongoing UF studies are exploring the relationship between the tear film and blood vessel formation.

"One of the findings of our earlier work was that there is absolutely no pathology involved in the formation of these manatee blood vessels, which in other species occur predominantly because of trauma or disease," Samuelson said. "So the question is, why do these mammals have such thick tears that corneal blood vessels form naturally, even in the fetus?"

Samuelson collaborated with Roger Reep, Ph.D., a UF professor of neurology, and Jenny Harper, Ph.D., a recent doctoral graduate who is now an assistant professor at Coastal Georgia Community College. Together they examined 26 eyes from 22 individual manatees and constructed 3-D images of the corneas.

"We’ve completed the evaluation and mapped the blood vessels, so we know where within the cornea they are located and how many there are," Samuelson said. "Our next goal is to start examining the tears and evaluate them with regard to the whole animal’s health status."

He added that the recent study clearly documented the fact that these blood vessels are present, do not appear to interfere with manatee vision and appear to be a part of manatee anatomy beginning in the embryo.

"With that in mind, we are examining the tears to see what they exactly consist of, particularly with regard to the anti-infectious component," Samuelson said. "This may eventually be an opportunity to examine an individual manatee’s state of health with regard to their immune system by analyzing their tears."

Tear analysis is being used in human ophthalmology and is in its early stages in veterinary medicine, he said.

Kendal Harr, D.V.M., assistant director of UF’s Marine Mammal Medicine program, is collaborating with Samuelson on a large federal Fish and Wildlife Service research initiative to assess the immune function of manatees at Homosassa Springs State Park. She is coordinating sample and data collection for the UF veterinary college as part of the project.

"We suspect that manatees’ thick, mucusy tear film likely contains proteins, such as antibodies, that would prevent bacteria and other pathogens from causing disease," Harr said. "We are currently developing qualitative assays to measure antibodies in blood as well as in tear film and milk."

Sarah Carey | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.vetmed.ufl.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cancer diagnosis: no more needles?
25.05.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found
25.05.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>