Another new body organ discovery

 

Interstitium: latest body organ discovery

Sometime in early 2017 scientists discovered an important organ making it the 79th inside the human body.

Called the mesentery, it is a double fold of peritoneum – the lining of the abdominal cavity – that holds our intestine to the wall of our abdomen.

Accordingly, what is considered an organ now has always been inside the human body performing important functions that affect systems throughout the body, but was ignored throughout the centuries thinking it was just a few fragmented structures in the digestive system.

What it is in fact is a continuous organ that plays an important role in the intestinal, vascular, endocrine, cardiovascular and immunological systems, but more research is needed to determine the extent of those roles.

Among its functions, it carries blood and lymphatic fluid between the intestine and the rest of the body. It also maintains the position of the intestine so that it’s connected with the abdominal wall without being in direct contact.

Very interesting discovery, indeed, even to a known medical person, but what makes it even more fascinating to me is that I have known about this word already when I was running a meat processing plant where we butchered our own hogs and large animals.

The foregoing, however, is not the subject of this piece.

The new human organ discovery I am referring to in the title is called Interstitium, which according to scientists had previously gone unnoticed despite being one of the largest organs in the human body.

It was reported that Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center medics Dr David Carr-Locke and Dr Petros Benias came across the interstitium while investigating a patient’s bile duct, searching for signs of cancer.

The researchers noticed cavities that did not match any previously known human anatomy, and approached New York University pathologist Dr Neil Theise to ask for his expertise.

The researchers realized traditional methods for examining body tissues had missed the interstitium because the “fixing” method for assembling medical microscope slides involves draining away fluid – therefore destroying the organ’s structure.

Instead of their true identity as bodywide, fluid-filled shock absorbers, the squashed cells had been overlooked and considered a simple layer of connective tissue.

Having arrived at this conclusion, the researchers realized this structure was found not only in the bile duct, but surrounding many crucial internal organs.

“This fixation artefact of collapse has made a fluid-filled tissue type throughout the body appear solid in biopsy slides for decades, and our results correct for this to expand the anatomy of most tissues,” said Dr Theise.

How about that for the latest human organ discovery!

I would suppose this makes it the 80th important organ of the human body.

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Gorillas dying in captivity

In the same manner that my attention always gets pulled towards the zoo enclosures where large primates are found, like the gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans, I also get bothered and saddened reading about these intelligent, human-like animals suffering and dying in captivity.

It is bad enough that these herbivorous apes have been displaced from their natural habitat of dense forests where they spend most of their daytime feeding on vegetation, but it gets even worst when man insidiously change their diet.

Long running studies have been made to find solution to a crisis facing captive apes the world over that gets transferred to an artificial environment only to die later.

In 1911, Madame Ningo, the first gorilla in North America, arrived at the Bronx Zoo, where she was fed hot, meat-centric meals from a nearby restaurant. Being an herbivore, Madame Ningo refused to eat and was dead within two weeks.

In 2006, three seemingly healthy male gorillas in American zoos died from heart disease—a condition almost nonexistent in wild gorillas. Scientists have since determined that 70% or so of adult male gorillas in North America have heart disease, and it’s the leading killer of captive male gorillas worldwide.

Significant proof to this is when a 30-year-old and 400-pound gorilla named Mokolo unknowingly got an ultrasound heart exam when he voluntarily shambled up to a stainless-steel fence, squatted on his stout legs, and pressed his belly to the mesh.

Like many captive male gorillas, Mokolo suffers from heart disease—specifically, fibrosing cardiomyopathy, a condition that turns red, healthy heart muscle into bands of white scar tissue too rigid to pump blood. Other great apes, such as orangutans and chimpanzees, suffer at similar rates.

For more than a decade, zookeepers, veterinarians, epidemiologists and others have struggled to figure out why heart disease is so prevalent among captive apes, and how to prevent the animals from developing it. Now they may be closing in on answer—one that lies not in the 20-ounce time bombs housed in gorillas’ chests, but in the microscopic bacteria that flourish in their guts.

“The gut dictates everything,” a biological anthropologist says. Even with advances in feeding, scientists believe gorillas are still getting too much sugar and grain—and too little fiber—and it’s changing the microbes in their guts. It’s possible that, as in humans, gut microbes play a role in the health of systems throughout the body.

Perhaps what this means is that unlike in the forest where the flora being foraged is what gives the gorillas more of the good bacteria in their guts, in captivity most of the food given them generates more bad bacteria that makes it generally unhealthy for the body.

China’s interest in Philippine Rise

 

After what happened in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) where China claimed practically the whole of it, including what belongs to us in the context of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), only to convert it into militarized zone by turning reefs, atolls and other protrusions into islands complete with troops, airstrips and armaments of all kinds, would you blame the Filipino people now if most will question China’s interest in the Philippine Rise?

The 13-million-hectare Benham Rise is believed to be rich in maritime resources. The United Nations in 2012 recognized the Philippines’ exclusive economic rights to it as part of its continental shelf.

It is for this reason that I wrote a series of blogs about this new-found wealth of the country, which prompted me to say in one of the pieces, upon knowing that we own it, thus:  ‘I may never see it explored and developed in my generation, but it feels good heading towards the sunset years of my life that the succeeding generations faces a brighter future.’

You can open the following links for more information, if only to have an idea of what I am talking about:

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/philippines-pin-hopes-on-benham-rise/

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/thank-god-for-benham-rise-part-ii/

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/tag/benham-rise/

What I am trying to say here now is that after China’s scientific study/exploration in the resource-rich Philippine Rise, which included the giving of Chinese names to some features it has discovered, that it should not further its interest in and of the area.

At most it is very reassuring that President Rodrigo Duterte has calmed the concern and anxiety of the nation by telling the public not to be alarmed over China’s move to name features in the Philippine Rise (Benham Rise), even as he stressed Manila’s sovereign rights over the resource-rich waters.

“Benham Rise belongs to the Filipino. We will claim exclusive ownership of the economic zones — 200 nautical miles,” Duterte said.

“Let me be very clear about this: The Philippine Rise is ours and any insinuation that it is open to everybody should end with this declaration.”

Well said, but does this mean that we have to put our guards down just because it is coupled with the heartening words of Duterte?

I believe in Duterte’s ardor in protecting the interests of the country and the Filipino people, and he could not be corrupted.

But what happens when he is gone and the one succeeding does not have the political will and leadership capability that Duterte has in stopping China’s aggression, especially that the latter is  now at our own backyard in the West Philippine Sea?

This is the price we get for having China as our closest neighbor now, even honoring every which way their presence.

Dealing with loneliness issues

 

This may sound odd indeed, but it has been reported that U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has created a government agency, to be headed by a Minister, that will be dealing with loneliness issues.

A study conducted found that one in 10 people in the U.K. face isolation, a condition that can trigger a range of physical and mental health issues.

“I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones ― people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with,” May said in a statement.

Statistics have shown that more than 9 million adults in the U.K. report feeling often or always lonely. For 3.6 million people aged 65 or older, it found, television is considered the main form of company.

According to Brigham Young University Psychology Professor Julianne Holt Lunstad, the harmful impact of loneliness is more than psychological. Having weak social connections is considered to be as damaging to one’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

“There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality and the magnitude of the risks exceeds that of many leading health indicators,” Lunstad  is quoted as saying in the Jo Cox Commission’s on Loneliness, an organization that works to combat social isolation and loneliness.

More than half of all disabled people in the U.K. experience loneliness, with it being more prominent among younger individuals. Eight out of 10 caregivers have also felt lonely or isolated as a result of looking after a loved one, according to the Jo Cox Commission’s report.

The commission is named after Labor Party lawmaker Jo Cox, who was a prominent advocate for addressing the issue of loneliness in Britain before her 2016 shooting death by a right-wing extremist.

As loneliness is universal that comes in different manner, shape and form, it may be beneficial for other countries to take notice of what the U.K. is doing in raising understanding and awareness of loneliness issues if only for the afflicted to know that there are organizations and people out there who support and care for them.

 

New species of orangutan discovered

 

An adult male Tapanuli orangutan in the Batang Toru Forest (Photo from National Geographic).

Far from being the Fosseys and Goodalls of this world, both leading primatologists, the discovery of a new species of orangutan, however, brings excitement to ordinary people, like me, who loves and gets immensely entertained by this kind-looking, playful and intelligent variety among the primates, who generally are considered one of humankind’s closest relatives.

Orangutans long were considered a single species, but were recognized as having two species in 1996, one in Sumatra (Pongo abelii) and one in Borneo ((Pongo pygmaeus).

(Photo by National Geographic)

The new species, called Pongo tapanuliensis, is found in the isolated Batang Toru forest in Sumatra, Indonesia. And it’s estimated that there are fewer than 800 of these shaggy reddish tree dwellers left, making it very vulnerable to extinction. It makes the new species also the rarest great ape on Earth. Note that the Sumatran (estimated 14,000) and Bornean (estimated 55,000) have both been declared as critically endangered.

Although the Tapanuli orangutans were thought to belong to the species Pongo abelii, also known as the Sumatran orangutan, scientists discovered that the new species is more closely related to its cousins in Borneo than to its fellow Sumatran apes.

But according to scientists there had been a few hints in their observation that the so-called Tapanuli orangutans were different. Previous research showed that this population of orangutans behaved differently than other orangutans and had some genetic differences. But it wasn’t clear whether those differences were enough to name a new species, thus, it continued to be identified as belonging to the Sumatran orangutan.

The tell tale signs of significant difference later came when researchers got access to the skeleton of an orangutan found in the Tapanuli region. The orangutan, named Raya, had died after being harassed and injured by people, according to National Geographic. A comparison between Raya’s skull and teeth and those of 33 other adult male orangutans revealed that there were enough differences to grant a new species designation.

Orangutan means “person of the forest” in the Indonesian and Malay languages, and it is the world’s biggest arboreal mammal. Orangutans are adapted to living in trees, with their arms longer than their legs. They live more solitary lives than other great apes, sleeping and eating fruit in the forest canopy and swinging from branch to branch.

“It’s pretty exciting to be able to describe a new great ape species in this day and age,” said University of Zurich evolutionary geneticist Michael Krützen, adding that most great apes species are listed as endangered or critically endangered.

“We must do everything possible to protect the habitats in which these magnificent animals occur, not only because of them, but also because of all the other animal and plant species that we can protect at the same time.”

Matthew Nowak, of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program, echoed the same sentiment, saying, that “In addition to threats like hunting by humans, significant areas of the Tapanuli orangutan’s range are seriously threatened by habitat conversion for small-scale agriculture, mining exploration and exploitation, a large-scale hydroelectric scheme, geothermal development and agricultural plantations.”

Talking about collateral damage!

High hopes for the visually impaired

 

Like bats that use sound waves and echoes – a technique called echolocation – to capture prey and find food, a visually impaired person may soon find its way easily and safely by practically using the same technique as additional aid methods like the cane and walking dogs.

To echolocate, bats send out sound waves from their mouth or nose. When the sound waves hit an object they produce echoes. The echo bounces off the object and returns to the bat’s ears.

The active use of sonar (SOund Navigation And Ranging), which actually is the essence of echolocation, along with special morphological (physical features) and physiological adaptations – allows bats to “see” with sound.

Ars Technica, a website covering news and opinions in technology, science, politics and society, was quoted in an article in Newser, saying that a man who recently lost his vision has a new device, a wristband, which lets the visually impaired navigate via sonar, and could be “the Fitbit for the blind.”

He wristband, called Sunu Band, is a devise that emits a high-frequency sound wave that bounces off objects and back to the hand, where it is translated into vibration.

Fernando Albertorio, one of the co-creators of Sunu, said that one of his friends call the devise his “sixth sense.”

Albertorio, who is legally blind, has used the wristband to avoid objects while walking, find doorways, identity crosswalk buttons, and even run a 5K race. He says the “feeling of independence” is “amazing.”

The Sunu team hopes their invention changes how the visually impaired live. Albertorio says people who are blind can be afraid to go outside, but not only will Sunu help them move about safely it allows the visually impaired to “blend in and be part of their community,” unlike a traditional cane.

 

The unique goats of Morocco

 

Morocco’s treetop grazing goats.

I thought I already saw the most extraordinary breed of goat in the mountain goat, also known as the Rocky Mountain goat that is endemic to North America, when it is climbing up and down steep, rocky slopes with pitches exceeding 60 degrees, what with the tip of its feet having dewclaws that keep it from slipping.

Like our local, domestic goats, mountain goats are also herbivores and spend most of their time grazing. Their diets include grasses, herbs, sedges, ferns, mosses, lichens, and twigs and leaves from the low-growing shrubs and conifers of their high-altitude habitat.

But it looks like Morocco breeds the weirdest domesticated goats as far as I know now.

Domesticated goats in the region are unusually fond of climbing to the precarious tops of argan trees to find fresh forage because there is nothing much to eat on the ground.

Argan is popular for the beauty products which feature in argan oil, made from the tree’s nuts.

In some arid habitats, such as argan forests, most green vegetation is at the tops of the trees – which can grow 10 meters high.

Local goatherds are known to encourage the activity, pruning the bushy, thorny trees to make it easier for goats to ascend them, and even helping the goats’ kids to learn how to climb.

During the bare autumn season in the region, goats can spend three quarters of their foraging time “treetop grazing” in the argan trees.

In reality Moroccan goats are causing a paradox in the region.

While the foraging animals may cause to produce less tree nuts because of their fondness for the argan fruit, the fact, however, that they don’t like the large argan seeds and, like cows, sheep and deer, the goats re-chew their food after fermenting it for a while in a specialized stomach, and while ruminating over their cud, the goats have been observed spitting out the argan nuts.

Since it is tough for argan trees to thrive in the semi-desert Sous valley region of southern Morocco, the act therefore of spitting out the nuts means the goats are delivering clean seeds to new ground wherever the animals wander.

Interesting!