May 22, 2013 | David F. Coppedge

Amazing Body Facts

There are more wonders in your body than you can possibly imagine.  Here are half a dozen new findings for conversation starters.

Your inner bat:  You have another sense you may not be aware of: you can learn the art of echolocation.   It’s been known that blind people develop an ability to detect objects by their echoes, but Science Daily reported that even sighted people can train themselves to do it.  Some people are better at it than others, for unknown reasons.  Echolocation depends on very precise detection of timing differences between the two ears.

Self-healing holes:  Our blood vessels are made of a wonderful tissue, called epithelium.  It’s stretchy, stable, and watertight.  Science Daily says, “Measuring just a few hundred nanometers in thickness, this super-tenuous structure routinely withstands blood flow, hydrostatic pressure, stretch and tissue compression to create a unique and highly dynamic barrier that maintains the organization necessary to partition tissues from the body’s circulatory system.”

But there are immune cells, called leukocytes, that need to enter these passageways.  How do they do it?  The article presented findings by the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where scientists studied how epithelial cells cooperate with leukocytes, creating holes for them to enter, then healing the holes behind them.

By and large, these ensuing “micro -wounds” are short-lived; as soon as the cells have crossed the endothelium, these pores and gaps quickly heal, restoring the system’s efficient barrier function. In cases when these gaps fail to close — and leakage occurs — the results can be devastating, leading to dramatic pathologies including sepsis and acute lung injury….

Amazing FactsDescribed in The Journal of Cell Biology, the new findings suggest that rather than structural robustness per se, the barrier function of the endothelium relies on an enormous self-restorative capacity….

“The cell’s restorative capacity was just so striking,” says [Christopher V.] Carman. “But these early investigations were still inadequate to tell us how the breaches were being closed. We had to dig down to the sub-cellular level to understand the underlying activities and the molecular signaling mechanisms that were orchestrating these activities.

Viruses, your friends:  You have another immune system scientists did not realize till recently, and it involves partnership with viruses.  Nature News reported that “Viruses in the gut protect from infection.”  Bacteriophages, tiny viruses that can invade and kill bacteria, find a home among the linings in your airways, by forming bonds with sugars in the mucus.  When bacteria invade, these killing machines, like a robotic army, take them out.  Medical Xpress called this a “new immune system” that has been discovered.  In more general terms, Science Magazine reviewed “our viral inheritance,” giving examples of good and bad ways that viruses interact with our bodies.  Even some endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) that seemed at first to be parasitic on our genomes now appear to be useful or beneficial.

Nose knowledge:  The sense of smell continues to be one of the most difficult to understand in humans and in fruit flies.  The molecules that land on olfactory receptors encode messages that are in some ways similar to those in the retina, but there appear to be timing dependences, too, Medical Xpress reported.  Science Magazine reviewed the growing science of “flavor,” trying to understand how we learn to associate smells and tastes with pleasure or displeasure.  “It’s a vastly more complex topic than they once thought,” the article said.

Your inner clock: We share a sense with the little flies we swat on our arms: a biological clock.  Because the human circadian clock is much more complex, scientists try to understand the clock in fruit flies.  Medical Xpress reported that a new component of the fruit fly circadian clock has been identified.

Six degrees of separation:  Because the brain is so heavily interconnected, any synapse is only about six steps away from any other.  This allows for an enormous amount of plasticity for “rewiring” circuits when one part is damaged.  Science Daily discussed work at UCLA that shows the brain “rewires itself after damage or injury.”  Understanding these processes could lead to therapies for stroke victims and Alzheimer’s patients.  Last week, Science Magazine discussed “Why adults need new brain cells.”  Contrary to beliefs decades ago, neuroscientists now know that brain cell regeneration takes place.  Not only that, “a key function of adult neurogenesis is to shape neuronal connectivity in the brain according to individual needs,” the article said.  Because of the brain’s plasticity and massively parallel architecture, Sandia Labs is looking to the human brain as “a model for supercomputers,” PhysOrg reported.

To make a point without attempting to be morbid, these findings underscore why the death of a human being, whether in a tornado or an abortion lab, is such a traumatic thing.  It’s like smashing a supercomputer, destroying a working factory, obliterating a work of art.  A dead body returns to undifferentiated dust that fulfills none of these fantastically complex processes.

The Bible describes death as an enemy, the result of sin that infected the planet with a curse and judgment.  The only hope of a new body that can live forever is faith in Jesus Christ, who paved the way for salvation through His death and resurrection (I Corinthians 15).  If you marvel at the body you have now, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him”  (I Corinthians 2:9).

 

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