Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Extreme cancer surgery involves temporarily removing digestive organs

Wow, the case of an extreme cancer surgery is currently being reported on the news. The operation removed (only temporarily) several organs and then the organs had to be sutured back in place. The removal was needed to get access to the cancer in the posterior wall of the patient's abdominal cavity. The article stated that the operation was like taking the engine out of a car in order to repair the car while it is still running.
It took seven surgeons more than 15 hours, in which they removed her stomach, pancreas, spleen, liver and large and small intestines, while keeping Zepp (the patient) alive. Once they cut out the tumor, which was wrapped around a major artery, they painstakingly put all the organs back in her body. - ABC NEWS Online
The removal of the tumor was complicated by its location in the abdomen. Reportedly, the small tumor was wrapped around the aorta and the base of the celiac trunk and superior mesenteric artery. Some portions of her blood vessels had to be replaced with artificial vascular grafts made of Gore-Tex (BIO 26 students saw these in lab).

The surgery took advantage of techniques used in organ transplant operations... including cooling and preserving of the patient's digestive organs after removal from the body. The patient was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma, a somewhat rare form of cancer of the intestines. It reportedly arises from cells in or around the muscularis mucosa. Check out eMedicine for more information on this form of caner (link to eMedicine).


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Love them or hate them... Peeps are here

March brings us two great things... endless hours of college basketball and the endless sugary pleasure of the Peep. I am not sure the relevance of Peeps to physiology or anatomy since they don't have much nutritional value,... we certainly can't measure their forced vital capacity or dissect them to study their fluffy marshmallow interior. Well, perhaps we can use them during a glucose tolerance test to increase blood glucose levels.

One research group has used the Peep as the subject of intense scientific investigation. These scientists studied the health risks of cigarette and alcohol use in Peeps. They concluded:

"The synergistic effect of smoking and alcohol in Peeps produces a rapidly exothermic oxidation reaction, leading to a chemical and morphological divergence from the wild-type Peep phenotypes. Assistant lab members described these divergent Peeps as "less sweet," "crunchier," and "gross" when compared to the Peeps which used either alcohol or tobacco, but not both. For these reasons, it is our strong recommendation to JustBorn Corporation that they supervise young Peeps and educate them of the risks associated with smoking and alcohol."

For further reading on the scientific research on Peeps follow the link courtesy of Emory University scientists and researchers. Peep Research

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

My Pink Spongy Lungs...

Inflated Lungs

The lungs are certainly one of the coolest organs to look at in lab class due to their light, fluffy feeling and their ability to expand to large volumes and quickly recoil... amazing! The above image shows a normal lung before and after inflation. Part of the ability of the lungs to expand and recoil is due to the extracellular matrix of the lung tissue which contains collagen and lots of elastin protein fibers. This gives the lungs their ability to recoil after inhalation so that air is exhaled properly. The videos below show this in action...

Smoking is a health hazard for many reasons such as heart disease and cancer, but smoking also can damage the physical structure of the lung. Cigarette smoking leads to neutrophil activation and retention in the lung tissues. Cigarette smoking induces macrophages to release neutrophil chemotactic factors and elastases, thus unleashing tissue destruction. A number of neutrophil-derived and macrophage-derived enzymes known as proteinases and elastases (ie, proteolytic enzymes) can destroy various components of the extracellular matrix of the lung (e.g., elastin fibers) and cause emphysema (see eMedicine). The tissue integrity of the tiniest airways (like the alveoli and respiratory bronchioles) is destroyed over time and normal elasticity is lost. There is also destruction of the aveolar capillaries which impairs gas exchange in the lung. All of this reduces the ability of the lungs to function and this is especially noticeable when patients with emphysema are asked to expire after maximal inhalation. It takes them longer to expire air out of their lungs since exhalation requires the inherent elasticity of the lung tissues, which they have lost with emphysema.