Body Wonders You Didn't Know You Had
We have some really advanced equipment running inside us.
Here are cool body facts for sharing around the water cooler. Read the links for details.
Repair crew: There are cavities in your organs with immune cells at the ready for fast tissue repair, Science Daily says.
A new sense: We all know about the sense of touch, and some of us have heard about the proprioceptive sense that lets us know our position in space. Current Biology tells about a “novel proprioceptive sense” due to fingertip contact area. Whenever the contact area changes, we receive informational cues about finger displacement.
Another new sense: PNAS takes the sense of touch to another level. Robot designers need to think about this one: the vibrations we feel when touching an object are loaded with information.
Using the human hand as a case in point, we show that during natural interactions with ordinary objects, mechanical energy originating at finger contact propagates through the whole hand, and that vibration signals that are captured remotely contain sufficient information to discriminate between gestures and between the touched objects.
Milk woman: Human breast milk has unique properties. Science Daily says it helps populate the infant’s gut with healthy flora. It’s like a “miracle,” Medical Xpress says, how breast cells work like little factories to produce this amazing fluid so beneficial to the newborn in multiple ways.
Epigenetic memory: The environment can trigger switches to help our bodies remember, Science Daily says. These on/off switch positions are heritable, so that the next generation can be prepared for stressful situations.
Custom facial: Skeletal stem cells lay the foundation for development of the human face. “Timing is everything when it comes to the development of the vertebrate face,” Science Daily says. ‘In a new study, researchers have identified the roles of key molecular signals that control this critical timing.”
Brain password: To protect the brain, there is a blood-brain barrier most substances cannot cross. There’s a molecular transporter, however, that can get things like essential lipids through with proper authentication. Another article on Science Daily describes how the gatekeeper system is becoming better understood.
Night watch: Ever have trouble sleeping in a new place? That’s because half your brain is awake, New Scientist says. Some animals like dolphins and birds sleep with half their brain awake at a time to stand watch; “something similar might be going on in our brains when we’re in an unfamiliar environment.”
The default mode network is involved in mind wandering and thinking about future events. It is spread across the brain, but it seems like only the part located in the left hemisphere may be acting as a “night watch”, monitoring conditions around us and alerting us to potential danger.
Unmentionable essentials: Our “unbecoming” body parts are no less well designed than any other. We don’t pay them much respect till things go wrong. How does your brain know when your bladder is full? Science Daily says this “seemingly simple” process actually requires dedicated sensors, signal transduction mechanisms and specialized muscle contractions. The anus, too, is often the butt of jokes, but thank God it works to keep the crap sealed inside till it’s time to go. That anal sphincter muscle has an important job, as anyone knows who has been a caregiver for one with incontinence. A paper in Nature Communications describes the “molecular basis of the genesis of basal tone in internal anal sphincter,” meaning that the muscle needs to maintain a default tension to keep a seal, so that you smell nice in the business meeting. Control of that basal tone goes all the way down to particular molecular machines in the muscle cells. Scientists found that disrupting them either led to incontinence or impaired defecation.
Maybe that last one is not a water cooler topic, but it’s good to know that every detail of our design is well thought out. The more details you know about your earthly tabernacle, the more you should be thankful. That’s a good reason right there to do scientific investigation. Thankfulness is healthy (and right). We, of all generations, having the most knowledge of God’s provisions for our bodies, should be the most grateful.