Clipboard: On obese dragonflies and cancer in whales, book explores what humans can learn from animal disease
I loved this interview from National Public Radio with the authors of a new book on how much humans and animals share in disease and healing.
Dr. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, a cardiologist who wrote “Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach Us About Health and the Science of Healing” with science writer Kathryn Bowers, became interested in the topic while consulting for the Los Angeles Zoo. She started out skeptical about how much animals and humans shared in disease, she told Morning Edition.
“I just assumed that many of our diseases were uniquely human,” she said. “But the overlap was extreme. I mean, a cocker spaniel gets breast cancer, a Siamese cat gets heart failure, a killer whale has Hodgkin’s lymphoma.” Add to the list dragonflies who become obese, pushed by a parasite into what is essentially a pre-diabetic state, Bowers said.
Natterson-Horowitz said veterinarians and physicians should communicate. “In my own practice as a cardiologist, going to the zoo and working with veterinarians has made me a much better doctor,” she said.
Among the most mind-bending findings they discussed was what humans could learn from animals about mental illness. Natterson-Horowitz wrote for the New York Times Sunday Review:
Perhaps a human patient compulsively burning himself with cigarettes could improve if his therapist consulted a bird specialist experienced in the treatment of parrots with feather-picking disorder. Significantly for substance abusers and addicts, species from birds to elephants are known to seek out psychotropic berries and plants that change their sensory states — that is, get them high. The more I learned, the more a tantalizing question started creeping into my thoughts: Why don’t we human doctors routinely cooperate with animal experts?Chelsea Conaboy can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @cconaboy.
About white coat notes
|White Coat Notes covers the latest from the health care industry, hospitals, doctors offices, labs, insurers, and the corridors of government. Chelsea Conaboy previously covered health care for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @cconaboy.|
Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor
Elizabeth Comeau, Senior Health Producer