Friday, January 06, 2017

We have a new organ in our bodies!

Doesn't that sound crazy?
After years of research, scientists have discovered that we have a new organ in our bodies.
You'd think that with all of the dissections of the human body over 100 years of anatomy study, that we would know everything about the human body by now, but no! There is still more to learn and I wonder what else do we not know about our bodies?

The new organ is located in our digestive system, specifically connecting the abdomen and intestines and it looks like this and it's called the MESENTERY:

For hundreds of years, the mesentery had been considered a fragmented structure made up of multiple separate parts. However, research by Professor of Surgery at UL’s Graduate Entry Medical School, J Calvin Coffey, found the mesentery is one, continuous structure.

J Calvin Coffey, University of Limerick said: “In the paper, which has been peer reviewed and assessed, we are now saying we have an organ in the body which hasn’t been acknowledged as such to date.” 

So how does the mesentery work? I hear you ask.

It is a set of tissues which is formed by the double fold of peritoneum that attaches the intestines to the wall of the abdomen. Up until now, we only know the anatomy (structure) of the organ, more detailed functions of the organ are yet to be found out. 

The official google definition of the mesentery.
This is definitely a breakthrough in science. Knowing what this organ does will not only benefit research but further scientific research of the mesentery could lead to less invasive surgeries, fewer complications, faster patient recovery and lower overall costs.  We could also find out about diseases which could be affecting patients, and find a better and more specific cure for these diseases. 

The human body still has its ways of showing us how majestic it is and we can only wonder what else there is to find out about the forever-working-factory that is our bodies. 

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Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Just add water: an emergency blood bank

I'm sure you've seen, fairly recently, a lot of advertisements calling for blood donation. Particularly in the U.K where the NHS pleads for blood donation so that hospitals and ambulances have enough blood in their blood bank to be able to provide it to patients during emergencies. However sometimes donations aren't enough, and science needs to find another solution, albeit temporary, to provide "man-made" blood for use in emergency blood transfusions.

The need increases especially when stored blood is unavailable or undesirable. Undesirable being defined as the blood type of the donor blood is not compatible with the patient's blood type or there isn’t enough blood ready for transfusion with the patient’s blood type.

Artificial Oxygen Carrier

Dr. Doctor and his colleges and his team have developed ErythroMer which is a new artificial blood substitute which is currently under trials, testing its efficacy before its official use in health care. It is a red, powder-like substance which takes the role of blood once it is dissolved in water.

Dr. Allan Doctor, a professor of paediatrics, biochemistry, and molecular biophysics at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, presented the new results in early December at the American Society of Hematology 58th Annual Meeting.

ErythroMer is a new solution in replacement of haemoglobin based oxygen carriers. Previously produced and tested haemoglobin oxygen carriers have proven to be inefficient because they carry oxygen around the body but they do not release it to bodily tissues.  They also trap nitric oxide which can lead to vasoconstriction and therefore high blood pressure.

Despite it being in the early stages of research, the blood substitute has provided very promising results in a proof of concept study in mice. Where they were able to prove that ErythroMer was able to deliver oxygen to mice tissues in the same way as mice blood and they were able to resuscitate rate that were in shock and had lost an average of 40% of their blood. 

The newly produced artificial blood (ErythroMer) is efficient at temporarily carrying oxygen around the body and releasing it to bodily tissues as required.  After passing several rigorous, initial, ex vivo and in vivo "proof of concept" testing and bench testing, this proves that ErythroMer is successful in emulating normal red blood cell physiologic interactions with oxygen and nitric oxide.

However, there is still 10 years worth of research and trials before the artificial blood product reaches patients in emergencies, till then, blood donation will still remain extremely essential. Next steps are to confirm our promising findings in a larger animal model, screen and address any toxicities, scale production, and eventually test for safety and efficacy in humans,” says Doctor.

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