Stories tagged human body

No, I'm not talking about the lousy cold you have, or the H1N1 flu (for which I just got a vaccine), or the seasonal flu. I'm talking about how researchers in Japan and at the University of Texas at Arlington have discovered that eight percent of the genetic make-up of humans and other mammals comes from an outside virus and not from our ancestors. After infecting a body, the viral DNA inserts itself into the body's cell nuclei (endogenization), and some of its genetic material is subsequently passed along to the host's offspring. The scientists plan to investigate whether such infections by bornavirus genes are the cause of some human psychological afflictions such as schizophrenia. The research appeared in the science journal Nature.

University of Texas - Arlington press release
More in the journal Nature


A medical miracle in the making?
A medical miracle in the making?Courtesy nbonzey
If you're one of those people who is easily grossed out, you might want to stop reading this post. Because what I'm about to tell you might make your stomach turn.

In an effort to help heal human wounds, medical researchers have been studying creepy, crawly, flesh-eating maggots. THE SAME wiggly critters that appear in your garbage can, on road kill, and any place where they can find dead meat or rotten food. In case you don't know the maggot life story, eventually these larvae grow-up to become flies, at which point they continue to hang out with garbage. It's not a pretty life, but they don't complain much.

So...what do maggots have to do with medicine?

Well, people have known for a long time that deep or difficult wounds (ulcers, burns, deep lacerations) heal much faster if you enlist maggots for a little help. In fact, hospitals even breed fly larvae (maggots!) so they can apply "maggot therapy" to wounds that would otherwise heal poorly. As gross as it sounds, this technique actually works well. The maggots eat the decaying tissue, preventing bacterial growth and helping to keep the wound "clean" so it can heal better.

Until recently, researchers were not exactly sure how these maggots did their miracle work on wounds, or how they could make maggot therapy more accessible. What they've discovered is that an enzyme produced by the maggots can itself help to remove decaying tissue. You can read more about it here.

This means that new bandages infused with maggot juice, or maggot ointment, might not be far from drugstore shelves. The enzyme appears to help heal wounds large and small, and with very few side effects. I wonder if upset stomach is one of them?

What do you think - would you buy a maggot-based product to help heal cuts and scrapes?


Somebody has been wearing green pants...: I think it's looking at me.
Somebody has been wearing green pants...: I think it's looking at me.Courtesy freebeet
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, everyone, but it’s time y’all know the ending to the movie, as it were.

You know what I’m talking about: the secrets of belly button lint have been revealed. The code is cracked. The mystery is solved.

So put away your magnifying glasses and mirrors. Close your holy books, and silence your prayers for enlightenment. Power down the electron microscopes, and box up the spectrum analyzer. Pick out the clothes you want to be buried in.

Because someone has beaten you to the punch.

There’s an Austrian behind this bleak news (as usual), a chemist named Georg Steinhauser. In an article in the journal Medical Hypotheses, Steinhauser describes the formation mechanisms and chemical composition of navel fluff, based on samples from his friends and colleagues, as well as over 500 pieces of lint collected from his own gut pit (that’s what cool kids are calling belly buttons these days).

The microscopic structure of human hair—overlapping scales that point towards the end of the hair—serves to abrade clothing fabric (it rubs tiny fibers off the cloth), as well as to direct thee lint towards the navel, as hair on the stomach “often seems to grow in concentric circles around the navel.”

Chemical analysis, however, revealed that while cotton fibers make up most of the content of navel fluff, flecks of skin, dust, dried sweat, and fat are also present in noticeable quantities.

Shaving one’s belly should significantly reduce the accumulation of fluff, but only, the doctor points out, until the hair grows back. Yes, that makes sense.

Also, belly button piercings can aid the prevention of fluff. Rings tend to sweep away fibers before they can lodge in the navel.

Wearing older clothing can likewise reduce lint. New cloth sheds more fibers—up to one thousandth of a shirt’s weight can be lost to belly button lint each year. If my calculations are correct, that means that your navel could consume an entire shirt in one thousand years.

It’s valuable research, of course, and it adds a “why” to the “who” and “um… what?” to our understanding of the navel ecosystem. (The bulk of what we already knew came from an Australian study of over 5,000 people, which determined that the typical carrier of navel lint is a “slightly overweight middle-aged male with a hairy abdomen,” and that the reason the lint is generally blue or grey is because… we usually wear blue or grey pants.)

Are your minds blown?

Well, you can continue on with your lives now, as pointless as they may seem at the moment.

When I was a teenager my mother told me that I was the reason her hair was going grey. Turns out that it was actually a build-up of hydrogen peroxide due to wear and tear on her hair follicles. This is according to a new study by researchers in the UK, detailed here on the BBC News blog. The researchers behind this study believe that a better understanding of the phenomenon of grey hair could lead to new and novel approaches to grey-hair prevention. And not a moment too soon! I was getting tired of pulling them out one by one with a tweezers.

A study done by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University shows that 8 in 10 Americans "believe genetic testing should be made easily available to all those who need it." The same study shows that 57% of Americans think research using embryonic stem cells should be allowed.

Buzz stories tagged "genetic testing"

A British woman is expecting the birth of a baby next week. Not so unusual, except that doctors screened the baby, through preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), to be sure that he or she is free of a gene that causes breast cancer.

According to the article,

"The husband's grandmother, mother, sister and a cousin have been diagnosed with the disease [in their 20s].

While a daughter could have been affected by breast cancer herself if she carried the gene, a son could have been a carrier and passed it on to his daughters.

Mr Serhal said: 'The whole objective of this exercise is not just to make sure the child doesn't have the gene, but to stop the transmission from generation to generation.'"

Of course, the PGD doesn't guarantee that if the baby is a girl, she'll never develop breast cancer. There are other genetic and environmental causes for the disease. But at least she won't have the mutant gene that makes breast cancer a 50-80% certainty.

There's more on Buzz about PGD...

OK, not "on this day." A few days ago. Well, two weeks ago, but the BRIEFING was today. Anyway, in a marathon operation lasting 22 hours, surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio performed the first face transplant surgery in the United States--replacing 80% of a female patient's face. (This surgery has been done only a few times, and was big news when the world's first face transplant, on Isabelle Dinoire, took place in France in 2006.) More details to come in the next few days.


Thinking about donating your body?: This picture was found on flickr's "Creative Commons" page.
Thinking about donating your body?: This picture was found on flickr's "Creative Commons" page.Courtesy kevin813
Want to be useful? A once in a lifetime oppurtunity presents itself
long after you die. Many people nowadays have given their body to
science. This awkward suggestion benefits medical research and gives
u a chance to help out.

what do u think? Comment!!


Here’s an intriguing thought puzzle for those of us cruising into (or through) middle age: let’s say you could magically rejuvenate three organs like the heart, lung or liver; or entire systems, like your nervous system or immune system. Which three would you choose, and why?

What do you think> Leave us a note in the comments.

It's not just for high schoolers anymore: now adults can take the President's Physical Fitness test, too. You can log your data every day, and see how your state measures up. If you post your data, you can get an evaluation, and come back over time to see how your fitness level has changed. Or you can just sit on the sofa and browse the data, which is what I'll probably end up doing after an initial burst of enthusiasm. Hey, pass the chips, will ya?