Need A Hand?


Did you have any trick-or-treaters show up at your door this past weekend dressed as a skeleton? Chances are their costume wasn’t nearly as time-consuming to make as the skeletal hand created by artist Amy Karle. Talk about taking impressionist art to another level! Karle is just as much a scientist as she is a visual artist. She’s growing a fully-human lady’s hand in a laboratory jar for all our prying, curious eyes to see.

Much like Leonardo da Vinci and other masters of fine art who have gone before her, Karle is inspired by the symmetry of the human body. Her natural curiosity also brings her back to the human body not just as a muse but a medium. Growing a human body within her own during pregnancy was the most exquisite form of artistic expression she had ever experienced. Yet the work of creating another human was performed autonomously. She found that fascinating. Hence the inspiration to grow a human hand as a work of art.

First she scanned the bones of a female hand and created a 3D digital model. Using a medical computer aided detection (CAD) program she built a biodegradable scaffolding system to support the human stem cells until they grew to be self-supporting. Within two years Karle expects the scaffold to biologically degrade and disintegrate while the stem cells grow into tissue and mineralized bone.

The coolest thing about this intriguing project (and probably the coolest thing about Karle) is that the steps of how to do it yourself have been shared. Karle is not the type of artist or scientist to guard her secrets jealously. She wants everyone to have a chance to join the fun if they want to. Whether your perspective is art or scientific research, the gringa thinks that surely there is a dear reader out there who would love to give it a try. Just visit Karle’s post on Instructables.

Now, the gringa thinks this all sounds interesting but is there more to growing a skeletal hand than art or “just because”? Karle believes it will contribute to research and development of cell cultures that can be used in bone grafts, implants or transplants. That’s what the gringa’s talking about. Stuff that’s not just cool but also helps to make the world a better place.

And the gringa could always use another hand at getting things done. Which leads to the gringa’s next question. Is there a possible future with busy overachievers,or parents with half a dozen kids or more, growing and transplanting an extra hand or two to help them out in life? Could we transform humanity into a bi-pedal species that has, not two hands, but three, or four, or even more? Hmph. Stranger things have happened!

Yahoo News – Science

www.amykarle.com

www.popsci.com

Image Credit:  Instructables

 

 

 

What Does Your “SNIP” Say About You?


A team of researchers have been studying 17 “snips” and recently published their findings in Nature Genetics. “Snips” are known as genetic tweaks found in DNA. These scientists delved deep into the genetic material of thousands of humans who participated in the study, all hoping to contribute to the future of medicine by doctors and patients, alike, being able to discover reliable genetic markers that will indicate certain diseases.

One of the lead researchers involved in the project is a Harvard psychiatrist, Professor Roy Perlis, who serves as Associate Director of the Psychiatric Genetics Program for Massachusetts General Hospital. His greatest hopes have been realized in the findings of the research. Discovered were genetic variations that occurred consistently in people who suffered with depression. What is the potential of this discovery in providing relief for depression sufferers and possibly preventing its development in a person who is genetically marked as a potential candidate?

There exists private genomics companies where a client can basically spit in a cup, have their DNA analyzed and learn any number of secrets that may be hiding there, like the potential for developing depression. This type of information, long before the onset of an illness, can transform healthcare as we know it. Rather than show up at a psychiatrist’s office in a full-blown state of debilitating depression, a person can begin preventative measures far in advance, thus improving their chances for a depression-free life of the highest quality.  This could potentially save patients and health insurance providers thousands of dollars per patient throughout that patient’s lifetime (and this could possibly be the motive behind some of the loudest critics).

The findings of the research determined 17 DNA markers linked with Major Depressive Disorder. Some of these variations are also connected with other psychiatric disorders thus connecting depression as a role player in the development of other forms of mental illness. If depression is, say, step one down the road of developing schizophrenia, imagine how many lives can be saved from such suffering if that single step can be avoided altogether.

Because effective treatment of any mental illness depends on patients self-reporting their symptoms and cooperating with treatment measures, mental illness is often under-reported and under-treated as a natural result of the mentally ill not having the capacity to recognize symptoms, or in denial of what they indicate, and often inconsistently participating in the critical component of treatment. By establishing awareness and beginning preventative treatment long before a patient becomes symptomatic, the chances of long-term success are greatly increased because medical professionals are dealing with a psychiatrically healthy  individual from the beginning.

The gringa sees all the critics and naysayers have to say. They are worried about misdiagnosis. They are worried about genomics companies offering unauthorized medical advice. But the gringa is not a Negative Nellie. The gringa is a Positive Polly. I believe that any person who is seeking out the services of a genomics company, willing to pay their own hard-earned money to get an analysis of their DNA in order to better understand their health risks, is a person who is not going to make bad decisions such as exploring medical treatment and advice from non-professionals. I also don’t believe they will be the type of people to be hampered with a misdiagnosis. I believe they will be some of the best informed patients a doctor will ever deal with. So enough with the criticism and embrace an advance in medical science that will most certainly save lives, preserve lives and improve the quality of those lives, as well as the lives of the loved ones surrounding them.

Sources:

www.nature.com

http://chgr.org/index-faculty_perlis.html

www.businessinsider.com

www.theguardian.com

Image Credit: images.boomsbeat.com