The human body: An inspiring biological work of art? Or a meaty sack of germs and fluids? Either way, there’s still a lot we don’t know about what goes on in there — and scientists are constantly attempting to find out more. Here are the most interesting things we learned about our bodies in the last seven days…
Dog Mouths Aren’t So Clean After All
There’s a popular theory that a dog’s mouth is probably cleaner than yours. That might be true (I don’t know your life!), but the mouth of a dog can still be filled with bacteria and grossness. Case in point: This shockingly tragic story of an Ohio woman who was hospitalized after becoming sick with what she thought was the flu. After developing sepsis at the hospital, doctors put her in a medically induced coma — when the woman woke up, all four of her limbs had been amputated.
Doctors conducted a blood test and found that the woman had contracted capnocytophaga, a bacteria that lives in the mouths of dogs and cats. They believe she became sick after her dogs licked a small scratch on her arm. The bacteria can lead to blood clots, which, in this woman’s case, led to gangrene and necrosis. In order to stop this disgusting duo from spreading and killing her, doctors had to remove both her arms and legs.
Long story short: Don’t let anyone lick you, even if they’re adorable.
Boomers Be Binge-Drinking
Binge-drinking among the elderly is pretty common, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The study found that one in ten Americans over 65 had partaken in binge-drinking in the last month (binge drinking, for the curious/concerned, is defined as having five or more drinks in one sitting for men, and four or more in one sitting for women).
Now, maybe grandpa just likes to have a good time, but it is risky for older people to consume high amounts of alcohol, as they’re more likely to be on medications that interact poorly with alcohol, as well as being more prone to injury. The fun doesn’t have to stop entirely, though: According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, seniors can still have up to three drinks a day.
Might I suggest a trio of Spirytus Rektyfikowanys?
Soon We Will Be Part Mouse
Last week, a Japanese research group received government approval to combine human cells and animal embryos. They’re not even going to try do it with something cool, like a rhino or an alligator, though — instead, they want to combine human cells with mouse and rat embryos. Even less cool, they aren’t trying to create some kind of tiny mouse person who can both scurry around on the ground and read books either. No, the purpose of the experiment is to see if human stem cells can be implanted within animals to create human organs. If it works in mice and rats, it could eventually work with pigs, whose organs could be transplanted into humans.
The researchers plan on raising these mice from the embryo stage and monitoring them for several years. They say it’s “unlikely” that they’ll exhibit human behaviors, but they didn’t say it was impossible, so we’d like to be the first to welcome our new rat-person overlords.
Tickling Old People’s Ears Is Good for Them
As we age, our bodies devote less energy to basic functions like breathing and digesting. That’s part of why getting old sucks –– just existing takes more energy. This occurs partly because of the deterioration of our nervous system. One possible way of reviving it, however, is through the vagus nerve. While accessing the vagus nerve usually requires surgery, it turns out it can also be reached non-invasively behind the ear.
In fact, scientists believe that stimulating the vagus nerve can help improve the lives of adults over 55, simply through some ear tickling. Researchers at the University of Leeds applied a small electrical current (which provided a tickling sensation) behind the ears of 29 healthy volunteers over the age of 55 for 15 minutes a day over two weeks. They found that participants had improved bodily function and self-reported better sleep and increased mood.
What are you waiting for? It’s time to go tickle some old people!
Too Much Exercise Could “Gum Up” Your Kidneys
Two teen girls in China recently held a competition to see who could do the most squats. The contest ended in a tie when each did 1,000 squats. But rather than resulting in serious soreness and some powerful quads, they both got kidney damage.
When we exercise, our body sheds dead muscle fibers, which are filtered through our kidneys. Normally that’s fine, but your kidneys can only process so much of it at once. When we exert ourselves in such an extreme way, we shed more muscle fiber than our kidneys can filter, resulting in a condition called rhabdomyolysis. Essentially, the kidneys become “gummed up” with the fiber, unable to filter toxins and waste from the body. The result is muscle pain and dark brown urine. If untreated, it can lead to permanent kidney failure.
The best way to avoid it is by exercising regularly, but I’m gonna play it safe and just stay seated instead. You can’t be too careful.