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Deprive a human of oxygen for 5 minutes or more and she will turn blue, pass out, and may die. Suffocate the embryo of a Venezuelan annual killifish, however, and it survives for months, emerging unscathed to complete its development. At a recent meeting, researchers offered a look at the killifish's bag of tricks, assessing the interplay between temperature and oxygen levels in determining whether this fish's embryos enter a state of dormancy to survive their ephemeral ponds drying up, and, more recently, cataloging the RNAs involved in this decision and the embryo's survival. By exploring the extremes of vertebrate physiology, these physiologists are hoping for clues to potential treatments for stroke, heart attack, or trauma, which can starve tissues of oxygen.
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