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.
A new study, done with animals, suggests that our bones may play a big part in controlling our appetite. Scientists believe that we have an internal bathroom scale that attempts to sustain a particular weight. It is usually a particular weight that we have maintained for a long period of time. Leptin is a hormone that controls appetite. When a person increases the fat storage of their body, more of this hormone is produced. When the brain receives this message it should in turn reduce appetite. If this were true people would not hold on to added weight. “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published results of studies done with rodents. Weights were implanted in the animals and immediately the animals began to eat less to accommodate the extra weight. The experiment was again repeated in animals who had little of the hormone leptin and again the animal ate less to accommodate the weight. This led scientists to come to the conclusion it is the production of new bone that is capable of keeping the body at a particular weight. Extra weight signals osteocytes (bone cells) to increase production. This in turn sends signals that there is a need to make changes so as to return to a particular weight. However since a good deal of us spend most of the day sitting our bones are not able to feel the stress of the extra weight and therefore there is no set weight that the body wishes to return to. Solution, stand as much as possible and walk after eating. This will help send clear messages to our bones.
When we hear about drones we tend to immediately think of spying, dropping bombs and spraying pesticides. However there are some incredible ways drones may save lives in the future. Drones in the future will be able to deliver medications, for asthma, blood pressure and diabetes to isolated pockets of Appalachia when they are given approval by the FAA. In 2016, a California based company named “Zipline”, started flying blood from a distribution center in Muhanga, Rwanda to two hospitals. The blood is used for transfusions in difficult surgeries. The company uses a fixed wing model which is able to withstand bad weather. It is monitored via satellite using an iPad and is able to make a drop within 15 feet of its target. In Sweden they have found that they are able to get a defibrillator to a destination 16 minutes earlier then an ambulance. William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Mississippi is developing a drone that can deliver telemedicine kits to doctors who may have to treat victims of natural disasters or terrorist attacks. An important component of the kit would be a pair of glasses known as Google glass. This pair of eye glasses will be able to transmit images to doctors in other locations enabling them to aid in treatment instructions.
Peanut allergies in children have tripled over the past two decades. The cause is unknown but a new treatment is having significant success. Australian researchers have conducted a small clinical trial that has had promising results. Children were separated into two groups. All had peanut allergies. One group received a daily probiotic which contained a protein found in peanuts. The other group received a placebo. The amounts given were slowly increased for a period lasting 18 months. Afterwards, 82% of the children treated with the probiotic group were deemed tolerant to peanuts as opposed to 4% in the placebo group. In the follow up study of these children, 70% of the tolerant group were able to later consume peanuts since they had developed a long term tolerance.
Working out has a positive effect on health but just how physiologically complex is exercise? Studies are now showing how movement demands coordination between different body systems. It seems that fat cells communicate with muscle cells who in turn communicate with the brain and finally the liver. The Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Sidney, Australia has begun to look at what is known as vesicles within the cells. These are tiny microscopic globules, similar to little boats, that are responsible for transporting waste material out of the cells and into the blood to be excreted out of the body. It is now known they are also an important messenger carrier. After extracting blood samples from men before and while performing intense exercise they noted an increase in these tiny vesicles. Upon tracking these vesicles with fluorescent markers after injecting them into mice, it was noted that these vesicles travelled directly to the liver instructing it to rev up energy production in order to accommodate for the increase in energy expenditure. The study reveals the complexity of what happens in the blood during exercise.This is how the liver is aware of what is happening and how it is able to transfer that information to cells farthest away from itself that may also need energy. As a result, scientists are able to get clearer insight into how metabolism actually works.