Stories tagged blood

Yup, still not Friday, but posting a few Science Friday videos that I've missed lately.

Science Friday
Science FridayCourtesy Science Friday

From 3/25,

"Artist Angela Strassheim began her career as a forensic photographer in a crime lab. She soon left to focus on art full-time, but she didn’t entirely leave the field behind. Her body of work, Evidence, is a documentary art project created using forensic techniques she learned on the job. The striking, sometimes disturbing images ask the question: after a tragic event, what remains?"

Not this kind of Heavy Metal: This kind of Heavy Metal is not Poison. Poison is an American Glam Metal band led by Bret Michaels.
Not this kind of Heavy Metal: This kind of Heavy Metal is not Poison. Poison is an American Glam Metal band led by Bret Michaels.Courtesy timparkinson

I haven't been feeling well lately, so I checked out heavy metal poisoning. Like you wouldn't do the same.

THIS kind of Heavy Metal: This is the kind of Heavy Metal I'm talking about. The kind that people wear hazmat suits to approach. This stuff is TOXIC. (Which is also a good band name...probably would be a heavy metal band...Wait, stop trying to confuse me!)
THIS kind of Heavy Metal: This is the kind of Heavy Metal I'm talking about. The kind that people wear hazmat suits to approach. This stuff is TOXIC. (Which is also a good band name...probably would be a heavy metal band...Wait, stop trying to confuse me!)Courtesy US Army Corps of Engineers

Turns out I've got the symptoms; headache and a bunch of other vague stuff.

But never fear...Science (and Nanotechnology) is here!

Researchers in Switzerland have figured out a way to use tiny nano-size magnets to attract and remove undesirable substances from blood, like heavy metals and overdosed steroids. Best part is that the process takes only minutes.

Nanomagnets remove toxins from blood: This photo should help.
Nanomagnets remove toxins from blood: This photo should help.Courtesy Functional Materials Laboratory, ETH Zurich

Blood goes in. Add the nanomagnets. Nanomagnets attract the "bad stuff" using linker molecules (works like it sounds - molecules that link things - in this case, they link nanomagnets to specific toxins or pathogens). Use a bigger magnet to collect all the nanomagnets with yucky stuff attached.

And VOILA! Clean blood.

What do you know, just reading about nanomagnets made my headache clear up. Go Science!

Learn more here...


Bloodshed happens

Bags of blood
Bags of bloodCourtesy spike55151

A lot of blood is shed every day. Many lives are being saved when that shed blood is replaced. Donated blood is only good for a few weeks. Also there is the worry about contamination (HIV, Aids, etc.). What the world needs is a way to manufacture and deliver blood as needed.

Wanted-fresh blood on tap

Our Defense Department's research division (DARPA) wants a a self-contained system that could turn out 100 units of universal blood a week for eight weeks. The system needs to withstand war front conditions and be not much bigger than a refrigerator.

$2 million awarded

That task and $1.95 million was assigned to Arteriocyte less than two years ago. (see Popular Mechanics, Dec 2008 - Bringing Stem Cells to War: Meet the Blood Pharmers). The technology, called Nanex, uses a nanofiber-based structure that mimics bone marrow in which blood cells multiply, according to the company. (cnet News)

FDA approval sought

This week an initial shipment of their pharmed blood product was sent to the Food and Drug Administration for an independent evaluation. If approved, their cost of $5000 per unit of manufactured blood will need to be reduced.

Still, given the price tag of transporting and storing donated blood, Darpa’s betting that a unit of pharmed blood will make financial sense once it costs less than $1,000. Wired

Paper "dipstick" test can tell blood type in seconds

Blood transfusions save millions of lives every year. Getting the wrong type of blood can be deadly, though.
While the expensive equipment required to differentiate blood type is not available in many poor areas, now a strip of paper costing pennies can be used instead. Learn more about the "dipstick blood test" in ScienceDaily.


Heyo!: The best day of my life.
Heyo!: The best day of my life.Courtesy JGordon
So, hey, get a load of this: my face is bleeding, y’all!

I know what you’re thinking: “That’s great, JGordon, but what good does it do me? How can my face be more like your face?”

Good question, Buzzketeer, but I don’t know the answer. Why not?

Because it’s a mystery!

So let’s look at the clues:
Clue #1) A fluid seems to be coming out of my face, via the nostrils.
Clue #2) The fluid has the color, taste, and temperature of blood, so it is most likely blood.
Clue #3) The episode began in the bathtub.

Not a lot to go on, but I’ve tackled trickier cases before. The Case of the Missing Mac & Cheese, for one, was almost entirely devoid of physical evidence, and yet I was able to confidently declare the perpetrator (and I will never forgive you, Brother).

Let’s start with what we have. Fluid from the facial region can result from any number of conditions. Sadness, for example. But I’m very rarely sad while in the tub, so that’s out. The fact that the fluid seemed to be blood (lab tests are pending, but I’m fairly certain that it was blood) indicates “epistaxis,” or the nosebleed.

The nosebleed, eh? But how could this have happened? Time for phase 2 of our little investigation: The Whys and Wherefores. Get the usual suspects together.

Suspect #1) A sharp blow to the face—Um, no, I think I would remember that. That didn’t happen.

Suspect #2) Nasal sprays, or nasal prong O2—No, no sprays were administered prior to face bleeding, nor did I have a nasal prong inserted.

Suspect #3) Co-co-cocaine!—Nope. I’m afraid that I don’t do coke. And I think that that might be a tricky proposition in the tub anyway. I’ll have to watch Scarface again.

Suspect #4) Nosepicking—Ho ho! Now we’re getting closer to home! But, no, I only pick my nose at parties. As fun as bath time is, it’s no party.

Suspect #5) Low humidity—I don’t know. I mean, I was in the tub, and it was full of hot water. Probably no.

Suspect #6) Intranasal tumors—Oh, goodness gracious! But a simple test confirms that I can still breath freely from both nostrils. Probably no tumors there.

Suspect #7) Inflammatory reaction—Hmm… like allergies? I don’t have much in the way of allergies, but I’ve been known to sniffle and sneeze now and again. What if there was something irritating in the house…like everything I own that is never dusted (everything I own)…and what if this natural irritant was combined with vigorous facial scrubbing. Perhaps that could cause the rupture of an anterior nasal blood vessel, and subsequent hemorrhaging.

Or it could be, as Wikipedia says, “a significant number of nosebleeds occur with no obvious cause.” Whatever.

Case closed? Just about. But how to get this thing to stop, how to shut off the blood faucet (as the doctors say)?

Just pinch the nose, okay? And if anyone tells you to tilt your head back, try to sneeze blood on them—tilting your head just ensures that the blood drains into your mouth and stomach, instead of onto their carpet.


Blood donation.: Image courtesy size8jeans.
Blood donation.: Image courtesy size8jeans.
I am a blood donor – and if you are not, and are able to, I would encourage you to be a donor too. The process of blood donation is relatively simple, and sort of painless. And although all blood looks the same, and is made of the same basic elements, there are actually eight different common blood types: A(+/-), B(+/-), AB(+/-), and O(+/-). The letters A and B stand for two antigens that can be present on the surface of a red blood cell. Someone with the A antigen can’t donate to someone with the B antigen, and vice versa. For example, I have type A blood, meaning the A antigen is present on my blood cells. My blood can be donated to persons who have types A or AB blood and I can get blood from donors who are also type A or who are type O. If I received type B blood I would suffer a serious, possibly fatal, hemolytic reaction. It is therefore very important that the blood type of a donor and a recipient be properly identified.

To further complicate matters, blood types are also either positive or negative for the presence of another antigen, Rh. If you have the Rh antigen on the surface of your red blood cells you have Rh+ blood, if you do not have the Rh antigen, you are Rh-. So, if you have Rh- blood you can only receive blood from others of the same blood type (A, B, AB, or O) who also have Rh- blood. But, if you are Rh+ you can receive from both Rh+ and Rh- blood types.

Now, type O blood (called type zero in some countries) has neither the A or B antigen and therefore, type O negative blood can be given to anyone. Persons with type O negative blood are referred to as “universal donors”. If everyone had type O negative, blood transfusions would be less risky – unfortunately, only about 7% of Americans have type O negative blood.

Recently a company called ZymeQuest in Massachusetts announced that it had discovered two enzymes, called glycosidases and derived from bacteria, that could be used to strip A or B antigens from the surface of the red blood cells, essentially enzyme-converting them to type O cells. By converting all A-negative, B-negative and AB-negative blood into O-negative blood would increase the availability of “universal donor blood” from 7% to 16%. While we’re likely far away from this blood conversion being used in patients, it is currently being tested in the U.S. and in Europe.

Learn more about donating blood here and here.

Play a game to see if you can match the right blood donor to the right recipient here.

With our recent cool snap mosquitoes may not be a problem for much longer. Still, you might be interested to know that it would take about 1,200,000 mosquito bites to totally drain the blood from an adult human.


Female Red Winged Blackbird: Red-Winged Blackbird (female) -- Hillman Marsh (near Point Pelee), Canada -- 2006 May.  Image courtesy Mdf.
Female Red Winged Blackbird: Red-Winged Blackbird (female) -- Hillman Marsh (near Point Pelee), Canada -- 2006 May. Image courtesy Mdf.
Q: What is a red-winged blackbird?

A: Red-winged blackbirds are a type of bird found in most of North and Central America. It is primarily a marsh bird and they are usually smaller than robins. The male’s red shoulder patches are what gives the bird its name. Although, by looking at these pictures, I think the female is the cooler looking bird. You can learn more about red winged blackbirds (and hear their songs/calls) here.Male Red Winged Blackbird: Red-winged Blackbird, male, Bluffer's Park (Toronto, Canada), 2005.  Image courtesy Mdf.
Male Red Winged Blackbird: Red-winged Blackbird, male, Bluffer's Park (Toronto, Canada), 2005. Image courtesy Mdf.

When searching for this answer I read up on red-winged blackbirds on Wikipedia. The images here are from that article. Interestingly, the photographer (Mdf) who took these pictures is on a mission to, “replace the barely adequate images of birds from the USFWS (and from other US Government agencies) with higher resolution, (hopefully) higher quality versions.” His images are impressive. This really has nothing to do with the question, but I thought it was cool, and worth mentioning.

Q: How do clouds form?

A: There are a lot of web resources about this, which I am going to defer to for this one – check out the “simple” answer at or read the article on clouds in Wikipedia.

Q: Why is blood red? Is it always red?

A: Iron atoms in our blood interact with oxygen to give our blood it’s red color. But not all blood is red! Horseshoe crabs have blue blood (due to the oxygen interacting with the copper in their blood), while most insects have clear blood as their “blood” is not involved in the transportation of oxygen.

Q: How long ago was this museum built?

A: The Science Museum’s current facility was opened in December 1999. The Science Museum was founded in 1907 as the St. Paul Academy of Arts and Letters, so we’re quickly approaching our 100th birthday!


I've had some too-close encounters with wood ticks lately. (None were feasting, however. Thank goodness!) And not while hiking around in brushy places, either. Some of them were right out in the open.

Tick2: aka wood tick, or American dog tick. Yuck.

I wondered if this meant that Minnesota was experiencing a tick population boom? And if there was a corresponding increase in tick-borne disease?

So I asked around. David Neitzel, an epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health's Acute Disease Investigation and Control Division, told me:

"This is the time of year that wood ticks are really abundant in Minnesota. They can be found in a wide variety of habitats from wooded areas to grassy areas, and sometimes very open areas (i.e., lawns). Wood ticks don't transmit disease in Minnesota, but deer ticks (also called blacklegged ticks) transmit Lyme disease and a couple other diseases. Deer ticks are only found in wooded or brushy areas.

Please check out our website and click on 'diseases and conditions' then 'Lyme disease' for more information."

Science Buzz also did a feature on ticks and tick-borne disease. We want to hear your gross tick stories!

Ick. Just thinking about it makes me feel all itchy, like one is crawling on me.