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Advances in medicine on the back of a whale – Extreme Physiology

London’s prestigious Natural History Museum was host recently to a jointly sponsored meeting between the NHM, World Extreme Medicine & the Society for Experimental Biology, which brought together experts from the world of medicine, Extreme Physiology and animal physiology.

The aim of the meeting, the brainchild of WEM’s founder Mark Hannaford and Prof. Craig Franklin the Deputy Head of the School of Biological Sciences and the Executive Director of Research Ethics at the University of Queensland, was to build intellectual bridges to share research, best practice and techniques between the worlds of human and animal medicine.

Ben Cattaneo, of the podcast ‘Allthingsrisk’, kindly agreed to join us to record some of the remarkable conversations and produce a special podcast featuring the speakers;

Mark Hannaford and World Extreme Medicine is featured in a Special Episode on Allthingsrisk

Expedition in extreme and wilderness environments is growing rapidly in interest and has yielded the field of extreme and adventure medicine. However, for every environment in which humans are challenged to provide critical care and support for successful expeditions, animal species have come before and not only survive there, but in many cases thrive there. Climbing Mount Everest is a huge challenge for humans without oxygen, yet bar-headed geese can fly with ease at altitude. Turtles can survive without oxygen for months at a time, but for humans a few minutes without oxygen underwater can result in death. Most humans do not live beyond 100 years old, yet Greenland sharks live to be over 300 years old. The more we learn about the intriguing life on this planet the more we are discovering about how species can out compete us and live effortlessly under extreme conditions.

What lessons can we learn from animals that seemingly push their physiological systems to the maximum yet achieve feats, which from a human perspective, are extraordinary. Can such animals provide insight into the human condition and ailments, thus offering the possibility of new cures and treatments?

This two day symposium that will explore the links between extreme life and human performance and health. The symposium will bring experimental biologists and comparative physiologists together with medical practitioners and researchers to find synergies between their respective research programs and to explore new opportunities and collaborations. The symposium will highlight the value of biodiversity in improving human health and the continuing need for its protection and conservation.