The markings adopted by the Toposa tribe of South Sudan are among the most intricate and involve serried rows of dotted lines.
Photo credit: Eric Lafforgue
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I’ve seen this photograph very frequently on tumblr and Facebook, always with the simple caption, “Ghost Heart”. What exactly is a ghost heart?
More than 3,200 people are on the waiting list for a heart transplant in the United States. Some won’t survive the wait. Last year, 340 died before a new heart was found.
The solution: Take a pig heart, soak it in an ingredient commonly found in shampoo and wash away the cells until you’re left with a protein scaffold that is to a heart what two-by-four framing is to a house.
Then inject that ghost heart, as it’s called, with hundreds of millions of blood or bone-marrow stem cells from a person who needs a heart transplant, place it in a bioreactor - a box with artificial lungs and tubes that pump oxygen and blood into it - and wait as the ghost heart begins to mature into a new, beating human heart.
Doris Taylor, director of regenerative medicine research at the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Houston, has been working on this— first using rat hearts, then pig hearts and human hearts - for years.
The process is called decellularization and it is a tissue engineering technique designed to strip out the cells from a donor organ, leaving nothing but connective tissue that used to hold the cells in place.
This scaffold of connective tissue - called a “ghost organ” for its pale and almost translucent appearance - can then be reseeded with a patient’s own cells, with the goal of regenerating an organ that can be transplanted into the patient without fear of tissue rejection.
This ghost heart is ready to be injected with a transplant recipient’s stem cells so a new heart - one that won’t be rejected - can be grown.
Skull made from fingernail clippings
An Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) is a congenital malformation of the vascular system in which arteries and veins are directly connected, bypassing capillaries. The result is a giant tangle of arteries and veins, and in space restricted areas like the brain you can imagine the negative affect one these can have on a person. The first-line treatment for an AVM is surgical embolization; they go in through the vascular system and cut the blood supply to the malformation off. The AVM then dies and stops putting pressure on the surrounding tissues. If the AVM is superficial in the brain they can perform a craniotomy and slowly shrink and remove the AVM.
Canines With a Cause (CWAC) is a not-for-profit organization devoted to helping military men and women. One way they do this is by providing dogs, rescued from local shelters, to veterans and active military men and women suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. One in four veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD, depression or anxiety. Veterans return home with feelings of abandonment and, often, have a difficult time adjusting to civilian life. The adjustment can include depression, substance abuse and in the worst cases, violence and suicide. Working and training assistance dogs has proven to be very beneficial to veterans. The bond created by the training process can lessen stress and help veterans deal with the invisible scars of war. Dogs provide love, comfort, joy and help transform lives. You can donate to help, read about their stories, and get involved.
Blue ringed octopus