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Open Access Big Brains and Blood Glucose: Common Ground for Diabetes Mellitus in Humans and Healthy Dolphins

Healthy Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) have a sustained postprandial hyperglycemia, producing a prolonged glucose tolerance curve and a transient, diabetes mellitus-like state during 6 to 72 h of fasting. To further assess dolphins as comparative models for diabetes in humans, we hypothesized that a suite of hematological and clinical biochemistry changes during the fasting state may mimic those reported in humans with diabetes. We conducted a retrospective analysis of covariance to compare fasting and nonfasting hematologic and serum biochemical data, including 1161 routine blood samples from 52 healthy bottlenose dolphins (age, 1 to 49 y; male and female) collected during 1998 through 2005. Most changes found in dolphins during the fasting state—including significantly increased glucose, platelets, gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase, and alkaline phosphatase; significantly decreased serum uric acid; and shifts toward a metabolic acidodic state (significantly increased blood CO2)—have been previously associated with diabetes mellitus in humans. Therefore, healthy bottlenose dolphins may be the first complete and natural comparative animal model for diabetes mellitus in humans. Similarities between dolphins and humans, including metabolic changes associated with high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets; large brain-to-mass ratios; high central nervous system demands for glucose; and similarly unique blood glucose-carrying capacities should be further assessed to better understand the potential evolutionary paths of diabetes mellitus in these 2 species.

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Publication date: August 1, 2007

More about this publication?
  • Comparative Medicine (CM), an international journal of comparative and experimental medicine, is the leading English-language publication in the field and is ranked by the Science Citation Index in the upper third of all scientific journals. The mission of CM is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information that expands biomedical knowledge and promotes human and animal health through the study of laboratory animal disease, animal models of disease, and basic biologic mechanisms related to disease in people and animals.

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