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Dolphins' 'remarkable' recovery from injury offers important insights for human healing
Date:7/20/2011

Washington, DC A Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) scientist who has previously discovered antimicrobial compounds in the skin of frogs and in the dogfish shark has now turned his attention to the remarkable wound healing abilities of dolphins.

A dolphin's ability to heal quickly from a shark bite with apparent indifference to pain, resistance to infection, hemorrhage protection, and near-restoration of normal body contour might provide insights for the care of human injuries, says Michael Zasloff, M.D., Ph.D.

For a "Letter" published today in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Zasloff, an adjunct professor at GUMC and former Dean of Research, interviewed dolphin handlers and marine biologists from around the world, and reviewed the limited literature available about dolphin healing to offer some new observations about what he calls the "remarkable" and "mysterious" ability of dolphins to heal.

"Much about the dolphin's healing process remains unreported and poorly documented," says Zasloff. "How does the dolphin not bleed to death after a shark bite? How is it that dolphins appear not to suffer significant pain? What prevents infection of a significant injury? And how can a deep, gaping wound heal in such a way that the animal's body contour is restored? Comparable injuries in humans would be fatal. "

Zasloff explains the dolphin healing process by synthesizing scattered reports of known aspects of dolphin biology.

For example, he proposes the same diving mechanism (diving reflex) that diverts blood from the periphery of the body during a dolphin's deep plunge down in water depths also could be triggered after an injury. Less blood at the body's surface means less blood loss.

As for pain, Zasloff's review suggests the dolphin's apparent indifference "clearly represents an adaptation favorable for survival." Still, he says, the neurological and physiological mechanisms engaged
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Contact: Karen Mallet
km463@georgetown.edu
Georgetown University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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