Let’s learn about tetanus!

A few months ago, I went to visit some college buddies in Washington DC. We hiking around Rock Creek Park, to check out the mysterious Capitol Stones–ruins and rubble from the old dome on the Capitol Building. They were tough to find, but we succeeded!

As we climbed around, we found some stones with nails and rebar protruding. Upon seeing this, I joked, “uh oh, watch out for tetanus!” One of my friends replied, “oh no, there wouldn’t be tetanus there. Tetanus likes to live in wood and in tight crevices, you wouldn’t likely encounter it on exposed metal like this. A nail recently pulled from wood however…”

This. Blew. My mind.

I realized then that I had no knowledge of tetanus, whatsoever, other the excruciating agony that is a booster shot. What is tetanus? Why is it so feared if it’s much harder to come across than we may be inclined to think? Let’s find out!

Continue reading “Let’s learn about tetanus!”

And then there were 80: The discovery of a new human organ

As a biologist, one of my most favorite things to talk about with people is how little we know about the human body (especially the brain). I think our ignorance about our own bodies really underlines how much mystery is still out there…or I guess in here? As technology advances, our exploratory abilities improve, allowing us to observe new and diverse things, like a new organ within the skin layers, for example.

We typically think of human skin as the resilient outer layer of our bodies. Skin (or dermis) makes up quite a bit of our bodies on the inside as well. Typically, we think of skin as a densely packed, layered structure of cells and squishy, stretchy collagen. (Yes, the stuff people put in lips, and the stuff that wears away inside joints when someone has arthritis.) There’s also fluid that can surround the cells within the dermis–which is usually either lymph fluid, blood plasma, or interstitial fluid. Researchers and clinicians at Mount Sinai hospital in New York City discovered that our perception of skin is inaccurate. There is really a series of tubes that sits within the skin, that helps an interstitial fluid move throughout the body. Continue reading “And then there were 80: The discovery of a new human organ”