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 Zap! Graphene is bad news for bacteria
23.05.2017 | Rice University

nachricht Discovery of an alga's 'dictionary of genes' could lead to advances in biofuels, medicine
23.05.2017 | University of California - Los Angeles

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

Im Focus: Bacteria harness the lotus effect to protect themselves

Biofilms: Researchers find the causes of water-repelling properties

Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

Innovation 4.0: Shaping a humane fourth industrial revolution

17.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientists propose synestia, a new type of planetary object

23.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Zap! Graphene is bad news for bacteria

23.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Medical gamma-ray camera is now palm-sized

23.05.2017 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>