The human tongue has about 2,000–8,000 taste buds. On each one there are hundreds of thousands of receptor cells. Since the number of taste buds is so different from person to person, taste sensations vary greatly. However, taste buds can be fooled. For example, spoons made from copper or zinc can enhance a food’s saltiness. Temperature is another important factor. Warm beer may taste bitter and cold ham may taste saltier. Recalling a pleasant memory of an item on your plate will actually make it taste more delicious. Color can also influence temperature. Forty eight participants in a French study actually preferred soda from a blue glass because they felt it tasted colder. Our environment can play a big part as to what degree we enjoy our food.
Projecting a three dimensional image of a person’s brain, heart, lung or any organ in question while operating may be the future of medicine. The ability to look through a person in a 3 dimensional way can help physicians more accurately plan and perform surgeries. This will help in removing tumors, taking biopsies and even guiding the placement of catheters in the brain. Within the next 10 years surgeons will be able to glance at these holograms and not be restricted to looking up at a screen. Progress is already under way at Duke University Robotics Program’s Brain Tool Laboratory. A proposal for a Hololens Development Kit was already accepted by Microsoft and is in development.
New technology is changing the science of transplants as we now know it. Through use of 3D printers everything from ears to most organs will someday be possible to reproduce. Bio-printing, although in the experimental stage, is expected to be a big part of the future of the medical field. At present many patients die while waiting for a suitable organ donor. Researchers at Wade Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine have been creating porous frames resembling the shape of a particular organ they wish to reproduce. The unoccupied spaces can be filled with living cells using the printer’s bio-ink marker. At present bio-printed tissue is being used for drug testing and the first transplantable tissues are expected to be approved within one year. The process involves spraying layer upon layer of different cells and at the same time spraying polymers to help keep a particular shape. If the stems cells come from the patient receiving the transplant, there is little possibility of rejection. Approximately 125,000 people die yearly because they are unable to find a suitable organ donor. The success of 3D printers and bio-technology will make it possible to replace blood vessels, skin, bones, cartilage, organs and tissue in the near future.
Research into the microbes that lie within our gut is constantly being explored. These microbes can affect our weight, mood, our vulnerability to allergies, disease and infection. They can also have an effect on how sexy we are perceived. Researchers at M.I.T. are calling it the “glow of health”. They are finding that these microbes may have a strong effect on our skin, hair and even our stride when walking. Tests were done on male mice in which they were given human breast milk. They not only developed thick lustrous fur but had an increase in testosterone which resulted in larger testicles making them a rodent heartthrob. Female mice showed stronger anti-inflammatory markers, had healthier pregnancies and tended to their off springs in a more caring and loving way. This may suggest that not only do these healthy microbes create hormones that have a tendency to draw healthier people together but in so doing can also ensure their own survival. In another study done in Switzerland, researchers concentrated on the microbes that were responsible for body odor. Women were asked to sniff tee shirts worn by various men. The women preferred the tee shirt worn by a man whose immune system was opposite theirs. This in turn would ensure a healthier offspring with a wider variety of microbes. Having healthy gut bacteria may prove more beneficial then hair gel when seeking a mate.
James Harrison needed surgery and a large amount of blood when he was 14 years of age. As an adult he wanted to repay the favor and so for the next 60 years he donated blood 1,173 times. Medical professionals discovered that his blood contained a rare antibody that when combined with a certain medication would go on to save more then 2 million babies from dying of a fatal disease. Anti-D was issued in approximately 3 million doses to mothers since 1967. The Red Cross in Australia said that there are only about 160 donors that have this rare plasma. Certain babies born with a rare blood type can develop hemolytic disease of the fetus which is fatal. At 81 “the man with the golden arm” as Mr. Harrison was known will have to stop giving blood. It is felt that he might now compromise his own health. Researchers are now working on “A James in the Jar version” in attempting to recreate his antibody synthetically. p.s. I should mention that James is terrified of needles.
Scientists have always believed that the human heart stops producing new cells after birth and that these cells do not multiply but only grow in size as we age. However, according to a new study published in the “Journal of Physiology” exercise at an early age can increase the number of these cells and that these cells will remain with us for life. Scientists divided rodents into three groups. They started them on an exercise routine at ages that were equivalent to what humans would classify as childhood, adolescence and adulthood. All the groups had bigger cardiac-muscle cells but the childhood group had as many as 20 million additional cardiomyocytes (the type of cells that contract). The group that began as adolescents had some but fewer. Although exercise will benefit a heart at any age, these extra cells make it more likely to survive a heart attack in later years. Time to get the kids out there away from the TV, computer and video games and have them start adding those extra heart cells.
Researchers at the “New York University School of Medicine” have discovered what they believe to be a new organ in the body. Not only was it overlooked but it is said to be the largest organ in the body. It is a network of fluid filled latticework tissue that is said to surround every organ in the body. Through electron microscopy it was determined that this network composed of collagen and elastin connective tissue, contained a fluid that was in constant motion throughout the body. Scientists believe that it may be the key to how disease is spread, especially cancer, throughout the body and is allowed to enter the lymphatic system. New in-vitro technology has enabled it to be studied inside the body because previously it collapsed when it was cut and removed from within which is why it remained undiscovered. The ”interstitium” as it is called may be what is responsible for keeping our organs in place as well as acting as a massive shock absorber as we move.
There are many benefits to a fiber rich diet. Reduced risk of diabetes, hypertension etc. But why? Instead of feeding us directly what fiber does is feed our intestinal bacteria. For proper digestion, we need to call on enzymes for assistance to break down a nutrient into its smaller components. What we classify as the indigestible part of a plant called fiber is actually digested and used as nourishment for the microbiome (healthy gut bacteria) that line our intestinal track. To test this theory scientists at Georgia State University separated mice into two groups. One group was placed on a high fiber diet and the other on a low fiber, high fat diet. After examining the feces from the two groups they discovered that the low fiber, high fat group had a collapse in their microbiome population, their intestines started to narrow and their inflammation level increased. It seems that each plant and fruit provides a different fiber which in turn feeds a different population of bacteria in our gut. I guess there is truth to the saying “an apple a day……”
Hot chili peppers can be extremely beneficial for keeping blood pressure in check. People who crave very spicy food usually do not have a desire for salty food. A large study done in China reported that capsaicin, the spicy component of chili peppers, stimulated the same area of the brain as did salt. In so doing, it made the brain more sensitive to salt which potentially made a person consume less salty foods. Results of the study were published in “Hypertension”. The test had 606 participants. All were given water with different amounts of capsacin. The more of the hot spice that was present the less of a desire for salt was recorded. Another benefit of red and green peppers is that they are the highest source of Vitamin C.
A new device similar to a pacemaker has been devised that may help patients suffering from dementia and traumatic brain injuries. It sends messages to the brain when it is struggling to remember but is quiet when it feels the brain is functioning well. Devices such as this have been used in the past but only for people suffering from seizures and Parkinson’s disease. The research is funded by the Department of Defense at the cost of $70 million dollars in the hope of relieving the stress of brain injuries suffered by soldiers. Impulses sent to a portion of the brain helped in a 15% improvement of word recall. Hope is that Alzheimer’s, as well depression and anxiety may be helped by targeting different areas of the brain with electrical impulses. Test subjects who showed greater recall said that they actually felt nothing physically when the brain was stimulated by these impulses.