October 17, 2019 | David F. Coppedge

Human Body Capabilities Uncovered

More surprises about the body come to light, including the ability to regrow cartilage.

Adult Humans Can Regenerate Cartilage (The Scientist). Many animals can regenerate their limbs: salamanders in particular. Some animals, like flatworms and hydras, can grow their entire body back from a few cells. Why can’t humans do that? We obviously can’t regrow a whole arm or leg. But actually, there’s more to tissue regeneration in our bodies than scientists had thought. We do have something in common with salamanders.

Humans, unlike some lucky members of the animal kingdom, have a very limited ability to regrow damaged or missing body parts. But a study published yesterday (October 9) in Science Advances finds that we can generate new proteins in joint cartilage, and this ability is more pronounced in joints farther from the center of the body, such as the ankles, than in those nearer in, such as the hips. The mechanism for this ability resembles that used by animals such as salamanders and axolotls to regrow lost limbs.

On a related subject, Phys.org reported new findings about limb regeneration in salamanders.

Monkeys outperform humans when it comes to cognitive flexibility (Science Daily). The title of this article sounds like monkeys are better than humans. But really, upon reading further, monkeys appear more scatterbrained. That’s what they dub “cognitive flexibility.” If monkeys “outperformed” humans by thinking “outside the box” more, we would be hiring them as national security advisors. Humans do tend to stick to learned routines, scientists found, but sometimes wise reasoning in humans takes more time and deliberation. There are also other factors not considered, like the human tendency to doubt what a scientist is trying to make them do.

Linking the need to sleep with synaptic function (Science). What’s going on as we sleep? We know we need it, even though it would seem better not to give up a third of each day so we could get more work done. As we sleep, important work is being done:

Although our understanding of the molecular mechanisms that track the need for sleep remains incomplete, a clear message from the studies of Noya et al. and Brüning et al. is that a good place to start looking is the synapse. This conclusion is supported by recent findings of a quantitative phosphoproteomic study performed in whole mouse brain. By using two different models of high sleep pressure, the average phosphorylation status of 80 proteins could track changes in sleep need; strikingly, most were synaptic proteins involved in neurotransmitter release and synaptic plasticity. Brüning et al. also found that most of these proteins had specific sites with increased phosphorylation at times of high sleep pressure. By looking across the entire 24-hour period, however, they could also identify many other sites with increased phosphorylation during sleep time.

It’s not the skull shape that matters. It’s the contents.

Changes in the brain occurred independently of braincase evolution (Phys.org). This article is 150 years too late. If early Darwinians had known that skull size is not related to intelligence, that knowledge might have prevented a great deal of Social Darwinist racism. It’s been far too long to have Darwinians clueless about what really goes on inside the skull.

The human brain is about three times the size of the brains of great apes. This has to do, among other things, with the evolution of novel brain structures that enabled complex behaviors such as language and tool production. A study by anthropologists at the University of Zurich now shows that changes in the brain occurred independent of evolutionary rearrangements of the braincase.

The human brain is like a fish in an aquarium, floating inside the liquid-filled braincase—but filling it out almost completely. The relationship between the brain and the braincase, and how they interacted during human evolution, has been occupying the minds of researchers for almost a century. They addressed this question by studying brain-braincase relationships in our own species, and in our closest living relatives, the great apes.

Despite their undying optimism that their research is not for naught, they end by saying they have to start over after a century of going the wrong way.

“The brain followed its own evolutionary path of neural innovation while freely floating in the braincase,” summarizes Alatorre Warren. “The position and size of braincase bones thus don’t enable us to draw conclusions about evolutionary changes in the size or rearrangement of adjacent brain regions.” Co-authors Marcia Ponce de León and Christoph Zollikofer believe their study’s data provide an important point of reference for future research: “Having answered the brain-braincase question for humans and great apes, we can now take a fresh look at the braincases of fossil hominids.”

This implies that a lot of hominid research based on skull shape, size and capacity had nothing to do with the gray matter operating inside. The paper by Warren et al., “Evidence for independent brain and neurocranial reorganization during hominin evolution,” is published in PNAS.

Men are harder competitors: study (Phys.org). Here’s just one more study showing that men and women are different. Men are naturally more competitive and apt to see threats. If that’s what evolution produced, who is a sociologist to train men out of their nature? Anyway, this article had nothing to say about transgenders and gender fluidity. And it’s doubtful that you can treat men and women in a limited sample like lab rats and speak for billions of others in different nations and cultures.

Mitochondria work much like Tesla battery packs, study finds (Phys.org). Here’s another instance of “nature had it first” and “what they thought was wrong.” Mitochondria, the energy-producing organelles, do not pack their machines inefficiently.

For years, scientists assumed that mitochondria—the energy-generating centers of living cells—worked much like household batteries, generating energy from a chemical reaction inside a single chamber or cell. Now, UCLA researchers have shown that mitochondria are instead made up of many individual bioelectric units that generate energy in an array, similar to a Tesla electric car battery that packs thousands of battery cells to manage energy safely and provide fast access to very high current.

This is a case of anachronous biomimetics. The Tesla battery designers probably didn’t realize that the batteries in their own cells were arranged in a similar efficient manner that they thought they had invented.

As usual, the Creator designed it first. Our designs are cheap imitations, mere echoes of His handiwork.

Don’t pollute your office, though. An article on Science Daily asks, “How much are you polluting your office air just by existing?” Scientists measured volatile compounds in offices. Because of make-up, deodorant, hairspray and other “health” products, “Our preliminary results,” Purdue scientists said, “suggest that people are the dominant source of volatile organic compounds in a modern office environment.” With proper ventilation, that can be OK; but remember, B.O. and sweat are all natural… and, cleanliness is a virtue.




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