Thursday, March 29, 2018

Interstitium: New Human Organ Discovered!

This week scientists have discovered a new human organ! This new organ is known as the interstitium, it is found throughout the human body and is described as fluid filled compartments. The interstitium is found beneath the skin and lining organs throughout the body. Previously when observed this organ has been written off as dense connective tissue. These interconnected fluid compartments are thought to be used as ‘shock absorbers’ for the body; meaning upon impact the interstitium protects the tissues of body from damage.
(Jill Gregory)
This discovery was made by Dr David Carr-Locke and Dr Petros Benias at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center, when searching for signs of cancer in the bile ducts of a patient. Upon their discovery of the cavities they contacted Dr Neil Theise; as team they hypothesized that the traditional method of creating slides destroys the structure of the interstitium because one must drain the fluid. To circumvent this issue they have been freezing the interstitium in order to study its structure.
They discovered that the interstitium is connected to the lymphatic system and can be used as a transport system for molecules around the body. Researchers hypothesis that this could be a way that tumors can travel or metastasize around the body. This could aid cancer researcher by providing a new platform for preventive measures in the spread of cancer around the body. Although the interstitium was discovered inhuman it is likely found in other animal tissues, opening up an entire realm of research opportunities.
This discovery has made me question my view of anatomy. I thought we as a human race have understood the complexities of the body, and the brain was the last frontier. Now I am curious if there are other parts of the body, other organs, or cell types that have not yet been discovered. The knowledge of interstitium will aid the human race in creating better suited medicine and perhaps a more clear understanding of the spread of metastatic cancer.
Josh Gabbatiss Science Correspondent. “Interstitium: New Organ Discovered in Human Body
after It Was Previously Missed by Scientists.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 27 Mar. 2018,

By: Brooke Sullivan

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Penguin Mega-Colony Hiding in Plain Sight

       Would you believe that we found the world's 3rd biggest penguin colony in 2017? It is almost surreal that 1.5 Million penguins were 'hiding' in Antarctica. Near the west coast of Antarctica, in one of the most uninhabitable islands in the world, Danger Island, scientists found this super-colony. While there were other colonies inhabiting islands near other coasts in Antarctica, this finding increases the number of Adelie penguins in the world by a whopping 70%!
       According to this 2018 Nature paper, scientists were able to make this discovery using many different satellite photo datasets and analyzing them. Scientists regularly use these satellite images to map the size, location, and habitat of many other species, but the discoveries are almost never this exciting! These satellite images were taken by both unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and direct ground counts.

       This finding sparked dialogue about the fate of Adelie penguins and many other avians whose habitat is threatened by global warming or climate change. One of the hypotheses suggested that penguin populations have been gradually moving to the west to avoid other areas where the melting of ice in Antarctica has threatened their habitat. This new data about their habitat also encourages conservationists to reconsider which areas should be highlighted as protected areas to ensure these species are protected from losing more of their habitat.

- Rund Tawfiq (3)

Vulnerability and Extinction of Migratory Animals

Overtime Scientists have grown increasingly concerned about migrators, as human development and activities continue to expand. These migrators are animals that trek long distances up to thousands of kilometers annually. Scientists at UC Santa Barbara have set to measure the vulnerability and extinction risks of migrating of birds, mammals, and fish from different places around the world. Studies showed that vulnerability of migratory animals varied. The variation was regional, environmental, behavioral and taxonomic contexts.

Researchers were then able to examine more species ranging to 6,000 migrators. They did so by having taxonomic groups (birds, mammals, and fishes) and by environmental systems. Environmental systems were whether they lived in terrestrial, marine or freshwater. Another study done was whether the movement of a taxonomic group exhibited behaviors. Such behaviors were schools of fish, flocks of geese flying in formation and herds of wildebeests.
Research showed that migratory birds were abundant and decreasing to non-migratory birds. This has led to opportunity of conservation, which means they want to slow down the decline of species before they near extinction.

Further studies proved that migratory mammal’s population size were increasing compared to non-migratory. This is because migratory mammals are more endangered. They face barriers such as roads and other developments. Mammals also are at risk of being hunted or poached. Biologists were able to pinpoint and highlight areas that need to be preserved.

I think that its important to know about the species that are going extinct and the challenges they face. If there are ways to prevent animals going extinct we should act upon it. Like the article mentioned, “we need to find a way to coexist with these species, especially because of increasing human development around the globe”. If there is human development near where a migratory animal is they should take into consideration if these animals will be able to survice in the new conditions.

- Tatiana Silveira (3) 


NYU Scientists Discover New Organ in Human Body

It is hard to believe that this day in age with advanced medicine and technology that we would still be finding new organs in the human body.  But it seems that a group of researchers at New York University have found a new organ that lies beneath the skin and is present throughout the body, called the Interstitium.  Due to its web-like appearance and fluid-filled compartments, it was thought to just be a dense layer of connective tissue. Scientists say that this has gone without notice for so long due to the imperfect methods used for studying tissue.   When examining tissue under a microscope, it must be cut and cured with chemicals that make it easier to study, thus killing the tissue. But while this is helpful for studying tissue, it ends up draining the fluid and destroying the Interstitium.  So when scientists at NYU studied live tissue instead by using a camera probe, they ended up accidentally finding this new organ and began to focus on it.
It is hypothesized that these fluid-filled compartments of the Interstitium protect the body’s tissue by acting as a shock absorber.  This would help explain why it lines the lungs, urinary system, and digestive tract. Through further research into the physiology and functions of the Interstitium, scientists hope to gain knowledge into how cancer spreads throughout the body.  The Interstitium might just be crucial for developing a method for stopping cancers from spreading.
As this news came out less than a week ago, time will tell how important this finding really is.  I would expect to see more advanced studies done to understand the Interstitium and its relevance to human physiology and disease.  It is exciting to see this rare kind of news and where it goes next, as there seems to be a lot of potential for our “new” organ.

James Bowler (3)  

Hyperglycemia drives intestinal barrier dysfunction and risk for enteric infection.

We all know of the many adverse events that diabetes and hypoglycemia can have on our body. A team at the University of Pennsylvania has recently shown a link between hyperglycemia and intestinal barrier function. The researchers were able to observe the break down in the intestinal barrier permeability. Obesity today has reached astronomical numbers affecting more than 2 billion people worldwide and causing over 3 million deaths a year. The dysfunctional effects on the intestinal barrier are currently not well understood. Research has pointed to the permeability leading to microbial ligands leaking through and causing an inflammatory response. This reduced permeability means a larger chance of infection in obese and diabetic individuals. The researchers looked into seeing if obesity was a requirement for the observed dysfunction. They observed that obesity is associated with, but not required for intestinal barrier dysfunction. The researchers used genetically altered mice knocking out various genes associated, looking at adipokine leptin a satiety controller. Leptin deficiency is related to both human and mouse obesity. They also observed that Hyperglycemia drives intestinal barrier disruption.  A reprogramming of intestinal epithelial cells was observed. This research area is still in its early stages but is crazy to think of just all the other effect that obesity can have on the body. There are so many here in just the lining of the stomach. Obesity is a disease that affects our whole body with outcomes of that can be detrimental. Obesity is a public health crisis that we will have to deal with better in the upcoming decades.

Zane Ruehrwein (3)

Exercise Alters Our Microbiome. Is That One Reason It’s So Good for Us?

It has been established that our microbiomes tend to be relatively stable, however, it is capable of changing as our lifestyles do. Factors that can alter our microbiomes include diet, illness, and certain medications/drugs. However, scientists have been studying the capability of exercise to cause variations within the microbiome. A new study was conducted to see if exercise would affect the functioning of microbes in the human body. About 32 men and women were recruited, who did not exercise. Fecal and blood samples were taken from the participants and then they began supervised aerobic workouts for 30 minutes each day, while being asked to maintain the same diet as before the trial. After six weeks they were tested once again and the results showed that the participants’ microbiomes had changed throughout the course of the experiment. Some had an increase in numbers while others showed a decrease. In terms of the operations of the microbes’ genes, some were working harder now while others became more silent.

I never would have expected a direct correlation between the course of exercise and a change in one’s microbiome. The more obvious factors are the food we intake, the illnesses we carry and the drugs we take. However, I wonder if after this topic is studied more, we can understand why and how this happens. I also thought it was important that they kept the diets the same for the participants. But, since not every other varying factor was maintained and controlled there is no way of making these results completely conclusive. Maybe some of these numbers were thrown off by one of the participants being ill or taking new medications. The factors that could have altered these results should have been more strictly controlled in order to render a conclusive result.

Sunaina Sharma (3)