Pancreas – 6 in 60

6in60, BEDA 2018

Hello and welcome to the last of four 6 in 60s for BEDA! Last week I talked all about the kidneys and for this last organ we’re moving not too far away to the pancreas.

  1. The pancreas is a gland organ located in your abdomen and is around 6 to 8 inches long.
  2. It is part of the digestive system and produces insulin and other important enzymes and hormones that help break down foods.
  3. A healthy pancreas makes about 2.2 pints (1 liter) of enzymes every day.
  4. Enzymes, or digestive juices, are secreted by the pancreas into the small intestine. There, it continues breaking down food that has left the stomach.
  5. The pancreas also produces the hormone insulin from the endocrine portion of the pancreas and secretes it into the bloodstream, where it regulates the body’s glucose or sugar level.
  6. The islets of Langerhans (located within the pancreas) are responsible for regulating blood glucose. Too little insulin production will increase the risk of diabetes, and blood glucose levels will rise.
pancreas diagram anatomy

image via achingao.net

That’s it for this blog, see you all tomorrow!

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The Kidneys – 6 in 60

6in60, BEDA 2018

Hello and welcome to the third of four 6 in 60s for BEDA! We started with the skin, then last week we looked at the pineal gland. This week we’re looking at the kidneys!

  1. The function of the kidney is to filter extra water and toxins from the blood. The kidneys produce urine to flush out this extra water and any toxins. They are along with your liver the bodies own way of doing a “juice cleanse” all the time!
  2. Kidneys were one of the first organs to be donated. Because humans can live with one kidney many kidneys are given by live donors.
  3. Kidneys are built up from nephrons. The nephrons work like tiny filters that remove waste materials from our blood. Each kidney can have up to 2 million nephrons.
  4. To look after your kidneys and prevent kidney damage is to make sure you stay well  hydrated and give your kidneys lots of water!
  5. The kidneys also make hormones. These hormones help regulate blood pressure, make red blood cells and promote bone health.
  6. The waste products in the blood can occasionally form crystals that collect inside the kidneys. Over time, the crystals may build up to form a hard stone-like lump. These are whats known as kidney stones. Some small ones pass through the system painlessly where as larger ones may need surgery to remove.
Image result for kidneys diagram

Image Credit – DigiKalla

See you all tomorrow!

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Humains étranges – Syndrome d’accent étranger

BEDA 2018

For those who aren’t familiar with some very very poor french the title reads Weird Humans – Foreign Accent Syndrome.

See what I did there!

Foreign accent syndrome (FAS) is a weird and rare medical condition where patients develop speech patterns associated with foreign accents. It was first described in 1907 by neurologist Pierre Marie and it is such a strange condition that the accent can be from somewhere that the patient has never even visited! This rare disorder typically comes about as a side effect following stroke or other brain injury. The person with the condition not only changes the tone of voice, but will also change tongue placement during speech.

FAS has been documented in cases around the world, including accent changes from Japanese to Korean, British English to French, American-English to British English, and Spanish to Hungarian.

Some common speech changes associated with FAS include:

  • Fairly predictable errors
  • Unusual prosody, including equal and excess stress (especially in multi-syllabic words)
  • Consonant substitution, deletion, or distortion
  • Voicing errors (i.e. bike for pike)
  • Trouble with consonant clusters
  • Vowel distortions, prolongations, substitutions (i.e. “yeah” pronounced as “yah”)
  • “uh” inserted into words

Treatments generally include extensive speech therapy to try and correct FAS.

Here is a rather strange case study reported by the BBC:

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The Weekly Scientist – The other other Jenner

BEDA 2018, The Monthly Scientist

Hello and welcome to the second of four weekly scientists. Last week I spoke about the wonders of vaccination and Louis Pasteur’s discoveries. I thought for this week I would go along the same theme and introduce you to the father of immunology!

Edward Jenner

edward-jenner

Born: May 17, 1749

Died: Jan 26, 1823 (at age 73) in Berkeley, Gloucestershire

Noted for: The creation of vaccination and being the father of immunology and the creation of the smallpox vaccine.

Why scientist of the week?

As I said last week vaccinations have saved countless lives and are an essential part of modern day medicine. Edward Jenner worked in small rural community where most patients were farmers who owned cattle. During this time, smallpox was a common illness and among the major causes of death. In 1788, a smallpox epidemic hit Gloucestershire. During the outbreak, Edward Jenner observed that some patients who were working with the cattle and had also had contacted cowpox never got affected by the smallpox virus. In May of 1796, Jenner was  given an opportunity when one young milkmaid came to see with some blister-like sores on both hands. Jenner was able to identify that the young lady had caught cowpox due to the fact that she handled cows every day. He extracted some liquid from sores of the patient with cowpox. He later used this liquid on a young healthy man. To Jenner’s relief, the young man never caught smallpox, unlike other people. This then led to the smallpox vaccine.  In 1798, after several other successful tests, Jenner finally published his findings in a publication called An Inquiry into Causes plus the Effects of Variolae Vaccine. He called his idea “vaccination,” from vaccinia, which is a Latin word for cowpox. After so much ridicule, other doctors finally found out that the vaccination really worked and by 1800, a large number of them were using it.

So all in all thanks to Jenner’s discoveries and the immunology work done today many diseases are being wiped out around the world.

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The Pineal Gland – 6 in 60

6in60, BEDA 2018

Hello and welcome to the second of four 6 in 60s for BEDA! Last week I talked all about the largest organ of the human body, the skin. This week we are talking about the smallest, the pineal gland.

  1. The pineal gland is located near the centre of the brain.
  2. The gland produce melatonin. This is an essential hormone that helps regulate our body clock and gets us off to sleep
  3. The pineal gland was given it’s name due to it’s shape. It looks like a pine cone!
  4. Tumors on the gland are called pinealomas but fortunately there are very rare.
  5. Cells known as pinealocytes are responsible for the creation and secretion of the melatonin.
  6. Absence of light is one of the key triggers for the gland to start producing melatonin which in turn makes us feel sleepy. That’s why humans tend to sleep best in the dark.
Image result for pineal gland diagram

Image credit – PsyPost

That’s it for this blog, see you all tomorrow!

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Why are my eyes brown?

BEDA 2018

Hello and welcome to day 6 of BEDA. So far so good right?

On Fridays I’m going to be talking about genetics, it’s a massive field in the world of biology. Therefore, I’m going to try and break it down and keep things light and simple! My apologies to any geneticists out there!

So I’ll start with a simple question, why are my eyes brown, or hazel or blue?

Well eye colour is an inherited gene.

The leading question to that is whats a gene? and what does inherited mean?

A gene is a chunk of DNA, that DNA works as an instruction manual for the body to make you you! So each gene codes for a different thing and there is a gene specifically for your eye colour. Genes are broken into dominant and recessive genes. The dominant ones are more likely to occur and the recessive ones are less likely to occur.

Inherited means that it comes from your parents.  The sperm and the egg both carry half the amount of genetic material needed to make a human, when they meet the genetic material combines. This means that your genes are inherited from your parents.

So whats the gene for eye colour?

On your 15th chromosome you have two genes located very close together: OCA2 and HERC2. These genes can create the proteins required to make up the eye. 

What makes my eye the colour that it is then?

A person’s eye color results from pigmentation of a structure called the iris, which surrounds the small black hole in the center of the eye (the pupil) and helps control how much light can enter the eye. The color of the iris ranges on a continuum from very light blue to dark brown. The protein produced from the OCA2 gene, known as the P protein, is involved in the maturation of melanosomes, which are cellular structures that produce and store melanin. The P protein therefore plays a crucial role in the amount and quality of melanin that is present in the iris. Several common variations (polymorphisms) in the OCA2 gene reduce the amount of functional P protein that is produced. Less P protein means that less melanin is present in the iris, leading to blue eyes instead of brown in people with a polymorphism in this gene.

What does that have to do with my mother and father?

Each of these two genes comes in two different versions (the dominant and recessive versions we spoke about earlier). The genes come in a brown (dark) and a blue (light) version. Dependent on which your parents have determine which genes are expressed in your eyes. Where brown or dark versions of the gene are more dominant.

Sounds simple!

It is but these two genes have to work together to produce the darker colour, if any of the 2 genes are in the “off position” which is the blue colour then you can end up with lighter eyes. Shown below:

So can you predict a babys eye colour?

Yes you can but there is always an element of chance:

Image result for likelihood of eye color chart

I hope this didn’t get too confusing! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments!

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Disease Profile – Ebola

BEDA 2018

Hello and welcome to the first of four disease profiles. I’ll be giving you the top information on each disease, be warned for potentially slightly gross images.

Name: Ebola virus disease

Common Names: Ebola haemorrhagic fever; Zaire

Type: This is one of five viruses from the genus  Ebolavirus. (Sounds too good to be true but scientists love literal names).

Ebola virus em.png

Symptoms: (From WHO): The incubation period, that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms is 2 to 21 days. Humans are not infectious until they develop symptoms. First symptoms are the sudden onset of fever fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding (e.g. oozing from the gums, blood in the stools). Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes.

Spread: The Ebola virus is spread in the blood, body fluids or organs of a person or animal with the infection.

Image result for ebola

Treatments: (From WHO) Supportive care-rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids- and treatment of specific symptoms, improves survival. There is as yet no proven treatment available for EVD. However, a range of potential treatments including blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies are currently being evaluated.

An experimental Ebola vaccine proved highly protective against the deadly virus in a major trial in Guinea. The vaccine, called rVSV-ZEBOV, was studied in a trial involving 11 841 people during 2015. Among the 5837 people who received the vaccine, no Ebola cases were recorded 10 days or more after vaccination. In comparison, there were 23 cases 10 days or more after vaccination among those who did not receive the vaccine.

Location/ History: The largest outbreak of Ebola occurred in 2014-15 in many African countries where there was around 11,000 deaths and 28,000 cases.

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Human Evolution 101

BEDA 2018

Hello and welcome to day 4 of BEDA!

So every Wednesday in BEDA we are going from Birth to life to death as humans (Human 101 if you will) but to start off the series we’re going to try and break human evolution down into simple stages.

Human evolution is basically the process that took us from being apelike creatures to the humans we see today. Scientific evidence shows that the physical and behavioral traits shared by all people originated from apelike ancestors and evolved over a period of approximately six million years. The process of evolution involves a series of natural changes that cause species to arise, adapt to the environment, and become extinct. All species or organisms have originated through the process of biological evolution.

Image result for human evolution timeline

One of the key features of humans evolving include bipedalism which is a fancy word for walking on two legs. This is unlike the apes that use all four limbs to get around. It is not truly known what first caused early humans to get up and walk like this but there are a few theories. These theories include that humans that walked on two feet could gather more food and were therefore more successful, others have suggested that this method of movement allowed early humans to use tools more successfully. However the truth is simply not known.

Other traits include the ability for humans to use tools, a large and complex brain and the ability to use language.

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The Skin – 6 in 60!

6in60, BEDA 2018

Hello and welcome to the first of four 6 in 60s for BEDA! I once did a month of organ related 6 in 60s which you can find here. So I’m back to bring you another four! Today we’re starting off with the largest organ the skin!

  1. There are two general types of skin, hairy and hairless (glabrous) skin. Glabrous skin can be found on your palms and the soles of your feet.
  2. The skin plays a vital role in protecting the body from pathogens, excessive water loss, insulation, production of vitamin D, temperature regulation and sensation. We wouldn’t be able to exist without it.
  3. The skin is built up of several different layers and components which each have a different task (see the picture below)
  4. Skin varies in thickness around the body, its thinnest on the eyelids and thickest on the palms, soles of your feet and bum!
  5. Skin pigmentation is controlled predominantly by genetics.
  6. Skin changes over time and is the biggest sign of aging. This includes the skin wrinkling which is cause by a loss of elasticity
Anatomy of the skin with melanocytes; drawing shows normal skin anatomy, including the epidermis, dermis, hair follicles, sweat glands, hair shafts, veins, arteries, fatty tissue, nerves, lymph vessels, oil glands, and subcutaneous tissue. The pullout shows a close-up of the squamous cell and basal cell layers of the epidermis above the dermis with blood vessels. Melanin is shown in the cells. A melanocyte is shown in the layer of basal cells at the deepest part of the epidermis.

Image Credit: National Cancer Institute

Hope you’ve enjoyed see you tomorrow!

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Blogging Every Day in April 2018

BEDA 2018, Miscellaneous

Hello and welcome to BEDA!

If you don’t know what that is well I shall explain. I tried this out last year and was mostly successful but it is where I will be posting a new blog every single day on ThatBiologist! This month I’m going with the theme of Humans!

I write a lot about the environment and other areas of biology but this month will be dedicated to all things Human Biology. Alongside the blogs will be a new photo on instagram every single day so check me out over there!

Last year I had a theme each day which is mostly true of this year as well. So:

Mondays – Weird Humans!

Tuesdays – 6 in 60 – It’s back again 6 facts that’ll only take you a minute to read!

Wednesdays – Humans 101 – We’re going back to basics taking you from birth to death

Thursdays – Disease Day – I’ll be looking at a different disease every Thurday, this might get a little gross.

Fridays – Genetics  – What is it and why your genes are so important?!

Saturday – Scientist Saturday – A little profile about a human biology scientist!

Sunday – Random!

I hope you’ll really enjoy these blogs over the next month!

See you tomorrow!

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