Tag Archives: anatomy

Why Ultra-Pure Water Is Actually Bad for Your Health (Video)

We tend to imagine that purity is the ultimate indicator of the quality of water. So why is 100%, ultra-pure water not good for us?

Well the simple answer is that water (H20) purely comprised of hydrogen and oxygen doesn’t provide our body with the natural electrolytes and salts we need to survive.

There is no such thing as truly pure water in the natural world. Even water in the purest springs and lakes contains small amounts of dissolved minerals such as sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium and magnesium.

Oregon’s Crater Lake, which formed in the crater of a long-dead volcano, is thought to be one of the purest natural bodies of water. It is fed almost exclusively by snow and rain. Click to enlarge (Photo: Danita Delimont / Gallo / Getty)

When these minerals dissolve in water, they form the ions which we commonly refer to as electrolytes.

According to eatbalanced.com,

“Maintaining the correct concentrations of these ions in and outside cells in the body is essential for transmitting electrical impulses along nerves and for muscle contraction. They allow us to perform all the “bioelectrical” functions such as moving, heart-beating, thinking, and seeing.”

But not only does pure water fail to provide these essential electrolytes, it tries to rob your body of them when you drink it, potentially creating a fatal imbalance (if you drink enough of it).

This is a result of a process of diffusion, in which dissolved material tends to move from more concentrated solutions to less concentrated ones.

Click to enlarge

You can think of it this way: imagine a room with no gravity, split in half down the middle. You throw a couple hundred bouncy balls into the left side of the room. Since there’s no gravity, they bounce around everywhere.

But if you cut a bunch of holes in the barrier, they will slowly start to spread over to the right side. Some may cross back over to the left, but eventually, they will be evenly distributed across the entire room.

That’s how diffusion works inside you as well.

One of the reasons water is the main component of your body, from you lungs and skin to your blood and organs, is because it’s a universal solvent (ie. it can dissolve anything soluble and is neutral).

Click to enlarge

The water in your organs (the left side of the space room) maintains very specific levels of minerals (the bouncy balls).

When you drink ultra-purified water, it pulls the minerals out of your blood just like the right side of the space room pulled some of the bouncy balls over from the left. Ultra-pure water will even strip the copper off the inside of a pipe!

If you drank enough of it, the lack of minerals would eventually kill you.

These dissolved minerals, often referred to as “impurities”, are also what gives us the different flavors we taste when we consume different tap waters or brands of bottled water.

David Rees of National Geographic examined “Ultra-Pure” water. Check out the video below to see what he found.

Using Abstract Shapes to Capture the Motion of Legendary Olympians (Video)

Felix Deimann, a young motion artist from Dortmund, Germany, has always been fascinated with the dynamics of motion.

So for his final college thesis project, he decided to use digital graphics and abstract shapes to capture some of the most iconic athletes from the history of the Olympic Games.

His subjects: Nadia Comăneci, the first gymnast to ever earn a perfect 10, Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian ever, the legendary U.S. basketball Dream Team that dominated the ’92 games in Barcelona, and Usain Bolt, who still holds the title of the fastest man ever.

He named the project “Citius, Altius, Fortius”, after the ancient Olympic motto meaning “Faster, Higher, Stronger”.

This isn’t Felix’s first time creating awesome motion art, however.

In 2013, while still in college, he did another student project called “In Vitro”, in which he captures the earliest phases of life creation within the human body:

Felix also does some static art. Check out some of his work in the images below (click an image to enlarge):

 

You can check out more of Felix’s work on his website here.

Did You Know… Your Skin Can Smell. And the Scent of Candlewood Makes It Heal Itself

Olfactory receptors are the cells which give us our sense of smell. The average human has five to six million of these olfactory receptors in their nose.

Though there are other creatures with more powerful noses (dogs have up to 220 million olfactory receptors), the human sense of smell is actually one of the more acute in the animal kingdom.

But olfactory receptors aren’t just in the nose. In recent years, scientists have been finding them in all kinds of strange places: the spine, the kidney- even in sperm!

Recently, a group of researchers from the Hanns Hatt’s lab at Germany’s Ruhr University of Bochum discovered that these smell cells are also in our skin. And what’s more, these olfactory receptors seem to be involved in the healing process. Their results were published in the journal Nature.

Ruhr University of Bochum

One of the olfactory receptors they found in the skin is known as OR2AT4. Furthermore, the researchers found that Sandalore (a synthetic sandalwood oil that’s often used in aromatherapy) bonded to the OR2AT4 receptors in the skin.

But rather than sending a signal to the brain when it bonded (like the receptors in your nose do), the Sandalore triggered the skin cells to divide and migrate- the two processes that your skin uses to heal itself.

In their experiments, the researchers mixed skin cells with Sandalore in test tubes and cultures for five days. They found that in the presence of Sandalore, new skin cells were created (through cell division) 32% faster and migrated 50% more than skin cells that hadn’t been exposed to the oil.

Pieces of Sandalore wood (Courtesy of PBS)

The results were undoubtedly impressive, but the researchers also pointed out that just like everyone’s noses are different, so are the smell receptors in our skin. Some people have more, some have less.

Just how much of an impact sandalwood oil has on the healing process depends on the amount and the type of olfactory receptors in your skin.

Check out the original story from PBS here.

Korean Scientists Just Built A Two-Legged Robot That Can Outrun Usain Bolt (Video)

They call it the “Raptor”, and its design is largely based on the anatomy and dynamic movement of the velociraptor which roamed the Earth nearly 100 million years ago.

At 46 km/h (26.8 mph), it is the fastest two-footed robot ever, faster even than the world’s fastest man Usian Bolt, whose top speed has been clocked at 43.92 km/h.

The robot, designed by scientists at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), uses a number of elements from nature, including an “achilles tendon” which helps with shock absorption and a tail which assists with balance.

These features allow the robot to navigate over obstacles without hardly breaking stride.

However, the robot is still confined to the treadmill, needing a bar for support.

For more, check out the original story from the International Business Times here.

Doctors Are About to Start “Deep-Freezing” Humans For Suspended Animation Trials

You’ve probably seen it in sci-fi books or films before: some doctor or mad scientist will deep-freeze a patient only to bring them back to life later on. Well, suspended animation, as the process is called, is no longer a figment of the science fiction imagination.

This month at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 10 people will be put into suspended animation. But rather than using the process for intergalactic travel or some other futuristic application, the doctors will use it to try to save the lives of patients with wounds that would otherwise be lethal.

The real process is arguably crazier than the methods typically seen in science fiction. Rather than cooling the body externally (as is usually the case in science fiction), the doctors will actually drain all of the blood out of the patient, replacing it with a cold saline (saltwater) solution.

The solution cools the patient, slowing bodily functions to a halt and significantly reducing the body’s need for oxygen. Keeping the body in a state of suspended animation buys doctors and surgeons more time to repair the damage.

The technique was designed by Dr. Peter Rhee, who successfully tested it on pigs in 2000. Rhee and his colleagues induced fatal wounds to the pigs by cutting arteries, then replaced their blood with the saline solution, which cooled their body to 10º C (48º F).

Dr. Peter Rhee (Image: Tucson Sentinel)

All of the pigs in the control group (the ones that weren’t put into suspended animation) died, but the pigs who were put into suspended animation and then resuscitated at a moderate rate had a whopping 90% survival rate. Even more impressively, these pigs showed no signs of physical or mental impairment as a result of the process.

The procedure will be tested on patients who have gone into cardiac arrest and lost at least half of their blood as a result of a traumatic injury, a group with only a 7% survival rate. Though the body can only handle the suspended animation for a few hours, any increase in the survival rate of these patients will be a huge step forward for the medical field.

Read more from CNET here.

New Discovery: HIV Can “Cut and Paste” In Our Genome, Allowing Us To Use It to Repair Genetic Conditions

Researchers in the Department of Biomedicine at Aarhus University in Denmark just did something truly amazing: they altered particles of the HIV virus to simultaneously “cut and paste” within our genome. Here’s Jacob Giehm Mikkelsen, associate genetics professor at Aarhus:

“Now we can simultaneously cut out the part of the genome that is broken in sick cells, and patch the gap that arises in the genetic information which we have removed from the genome. The new aspect here is that we can bring the scissors and the patch together in the HIV particles in a fashion that no one else has done before.”

The technology will allow doctors to repair the human genome in a new way, and will also be invaluable in the treatment of hereditary and viral diseases as well.

HIV particles (yellow) infecting a human T-cell (Image: NIAID/NIH)

The cutting and pasting process isn’t actually a new one- we have been able to “cut and paste” parts of the genome using cells for a while now. The problem with this process, however, is that these cells would keep producing more “scissors”. Mikkelson explains,

“In the past, the gene for the scissors has been transferred to the cells, which is dangerous because the cell keeps on producing scissors which can start cutting uncontrollably. But because we make the scissors in the form of a protein, they only cut for a few hours, after which they are broken down. And we ensure that the virus particle also brings along a small piece of genetic material to patch the hole… We call this a ‘hit-and-run’ technique because the process is fast and leaves no traces.”

We have known for years that HIV particles can be turned into transporters of genetic information. However, this new discovery that they can also be altered to carry proteins that can have a direct effect on infected cells, rather than just on the genes, is huge.

Artist rendition of the HIV virus (Image: Russel Kightley)

Ironically enough, HIV infection is one of the main fields in which the researchers plan to employ this new process. Here’s post-doctoral professor Yujia Cai, who was also part of the research team:

“By altering relevant cells in the immune system (T cells) we can make them resistant to HIV infection and perhaps even at the same time also equip them with genes that help fight HIV. So in this way HIV can in time become a tool in the fight against HIV.”

Read more from Aarhus University News here.

A Team of MIT Students Is Developing A Wristband That Could Totally Replace Air Conditioning

Sam Shames is an MIT student who had spent a lot of time dealing with a fairly common problem: he tends to run hot while his mom tends to run cold. Sam realized that there had to be a better way to accommodate them both.

Sam Shames doing a presentation on solar fuels last year

He set about doing research on how our bodies regulate temperature. In one particular paper, he found some key information: the study talked about how locally heating or cooling small areas on our body can have major effects on how cold or hot we feel overall.

The research suggested that any change in temperature faster than 0.1º Celsius per second would produce the perceptual sensation of feeling cooler or warmer. Using this information, Sam and a team of fellow MIT students designed Wristify.

The key is keeping the wearer from getting acclimated to the colder or warmer temperature. Here’s Sam discussing this concept:

“The human body and human skin is not like a thermometer. If I put something cold directly on your body at a constant temperature, the body acclimates and no longer perceives it as cold.”

A volunteer tests out the device

To avoid this problem, Wristify has a 15 second cycle: 5 seconds on, then 10 seconds off.

By sending these regular shocks of cold or hot temperature into the wrist (they are able to change the temperature by up to 0.4º C per second), the device tricks our mind into thinking we are either cooler or warmer than we actually are.

The device is still very much a prototype, made of $50 worth of various electronics and wires strapped to an old fake Rolex band. The team is extremely excited to take the next step of development, making the device more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing.

They are also confident that their idea has the potential to revolutionize how we heat and cool ourselves. As Sam puts it,

“Why heat or cool a building when you could heat or cool a person?”

87% of Americans used air conditioning in 2007. While developing countries like Brazil (11%) and India (2%) used significantly less air conditioning than the U.S. in 2007, it is predicted that by 2025, large emerging countries like these will account for more than a billion new consumers.

Click to enlarge. (FSU=Former Soviet Union, ie. Russia)

Despite having less than 4.5% of the world’s population, the U.S. accounts for nearly 20% of total energy consumption. 16.5% of our total energy use here in the States comes from air conditioning.

So with the amount of demand for air conditioning expected to explode over the next decade, Wristify may be our way of limiting how much energy we consume.

Not to mention you can share a room with both your always-cold and always-hot friends and family without igniting a civil war over the thermostat.

Read more from Wired here.