Looking for the next Biotech start-up? Knowledge of the human body has never been as advanced yet there is still so much left to learn. Throughout 2019 doctors made several amazing discoveries:
Humans have the ability to regrow cartilage. In October 2019 a paper was published in Science Advances which indicates that depending on its location the cartilage can regrow.
In our ankles, knees, and hips our cartilage will repair at different rates. In the ankle, it regenerates well, less so in our knees and hips which is possibly why this is where we tend to suffer most from conditions like osteoarthritis which occur as a result of wear-and-tear.
Scientists found that the process of cartilage regeneration is similar to that displayed by Salamanders who are well-known for being able to regrow whole limbs.
It appears that micro-RNA that controls this in the reptile is also present within human beings. It could be that this new knowledge can provide a cure for conditions like osteoarthritis and possibly be used to regrow new limbs and other human tissue.
Forensic scientists are always making discoveries about what happens to the human body when we die. However, one of the main discoveries this year has been that the body will move quite a lot for up to 16 months postmortem.
Using time-lapse photography, research published in the journal Forensic Science International: Synergy showed a lot of unexpected movement.
Alongside the normal bloating and rigor mortis bodies were seen to move limbs throughout the entire 16 months of the study. This is fascinating news but also has implications in the field of forensics when determining the circumstances surrounding a death.
It seems hard to believe but scientists are discovering new parts of our body all the time. A recent discovery was highlighted this August in the Science journal.
It was found that an organ-like structure exists just under our outer skin layer which plays a key role in our experience of pain.
This structure consists of nerves that have formed a mesh or web and could be a breakthrough in how we understand and treat conditions that cause chronic pain.
If you are at a loud event you might wonder how you can even begin to have a conversation. However, scientists found that the brain works to focus on the area or person you wish to listen to.
Research published in Neuron said that the center of the brain that deals with hearing (the auditory cortex) work with other regions to help you to zoom in on the target speech so you can have a conversation even if you happen to be in a crowded bar.
A research paper published in Nature Communications this year found that people with an extra finger developed the ability to control and manipulate this finger on equal terms with their other digits.
Far from being impaired, individuals showed that they were extremely versatile and could use the finger to their advantage.
Using MRI technology the researchers were able to show that the brain had adapted to the extra digit and then worked to ensure that it could be used in the same way as any other finger.
People with an extra finger were often able to do what most of us consider a two-handed task with just one hand! This has important implications in the future development of artificial limbs.
These are just some of the exciting developments we have seen in 2019. The human body still has many secrets waiting to be discovered – we wonder what they will find in 2020!