Bodies: the Exhibition Blog

Predicting the Weather with Achy Joints - More than a Myth?

Can a pain in your joints really predict the weather? Up to two-thirds of people with arthritis believe this to be true because the decrease in temperature or increase in moisture can worsen a person’s symptoms. There are not many scientific studies supporting this claim and healthcare providers do believe that this claim is often misguided. However, a recent research study shows that the effect of humidity, temperature, and barometric pressure can influence a person’s joint pains.

According to an article by CNN Health, a study was conducted in 2003 of 154 adults that were at least 49 years old and living in Florida. All of these adults had arthritis of the neck, hand, shoulder, or knee. Among these, the women with arthritis of the hand were sensitive to the effects in the rise of barometric pressure more so than men. In 2007, an additional study proved that among 200 people at least 60 years old had pain from arthritis of the knee as the barometric pressure changed. Every 10-degree decrease in temperature would increase knee pain by a small margin.


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What Happens When You Break a Bone?

The skeletal system is made up of 206 bones, hard dense tissue, blood vessels, and nerves. Bones have adapted over time to provide support for the body, anchor muscles and allow them to contract, and allow limbs to move. Additionally, bones act as the body’s source of calcium and are always going through changes under the control of hormones. Because of these things, bones are vulnerable to a large variety of injuries.

One may ask, what actually happens when a bone breaks. When outside forces are applied to a bone, it has the potential to fail because the bone cannot withstand the pressure of those outside forces. The type of force on the bone may determine the type of injury that occurs. There are a number of reasons why broken bones hurt: the nerve endings that contain fibers are irritated, broken bones bleed and the blood and swelling causes pain, and muscles surrounding the area may spasm as a result of trying to hold the fragmented bones together. Injuries are based on the location of the injury on the bone, how the bone fragments are aligned, and whether any complications exist.

Whether or not a fracture is open or closed can determine the severity of the injury. An open fracture occurs when the skin over the fracture is damaged and the potential for an infection to get into the bone is greater. Often times, this requires operating in order to rigorously clean out the site of the injury. The bone’s alignment after a fracture also can determine the severity of the injury. If the bone fragments are displaced, this could require realignment before the bone heals.

It is important to keep your bones healthy in order to prevent serious fractures or injuries from occurring. Calcium is essential for normal bone formation. If a person does not get enough calcium from their diet, bone production and bone tissues can suffer. As you get older, calcium may be reabsorbed back into the body from the bones, causing bones to become weaker.


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Ancient Medical Practices in Mexico

The Ancient Mayans practiced medicine in several different ways, blending mind, body, religion, ritual and science. The shamans, or medicine men, had vast medical knowledge and often times were able to suture wounds with hair, repair fractures, or perform dental surgeries using jade or turquoise for fillings. Mayans used herbal remedies for treating symptoms and most of the treatments were commonly eaten, smoked, snorted, or rubbed on the skin.

Plants and herbs were often used to cure disease and sickness. Typically, the shamans would prescribe an antidote based on the color of a plant. Fresh vegetation, such as peppers, agave, or tobacco, was applied directly to the skin in plaster form to cure rashes, headaches, or bruises. The majority of the sicknesses the shamans would heal included colds, bug bites, vertigo, and jaundice, but would also be used for things like nightmares or nervous complaints.

Sweat baths were another form of remedy for the Ancient Mayans. This important purification element was similar to a sauna and was constructed of stone walls and ceilings. Water was poured onto the hot rocks in the baths, causing steam to allow a person to sweat out their impurities. Mothers found sweat baths to be therapeutic during their pregnancy.

Traditional herbal medicine practices remain popular today in Mexico. More than a thousand species of plants are used for medicinal purposes. Among these, some are sold in the marketplaces and some are dispensed through yerberias. Herbal medicine is deeply rooted in rural communities and the educated doctors try to work with the traditional healers of the community to integrate modern medicine and health education into the local culture.



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Weight Training for Your Bones

While people lift weights for different reasons, most do it to gain muscle strength. Building muscle can be visible within just weeks of a rigorous weight-training regimen. While your muscles are growing and becoming firm, your bones are also becoming stronger. This form of strength is not detectable like muscle mass, but can be carried through life because strengthening your bones will help prevent or lessen the effects of diseases such as Osteoporosis.

Several factors, including diet, hormones, physical activity, genetics and medications can all affect bone strength. While Osteoporosis is more common in women, it can occur in men over the age of 65 as well. Women generally experience Osteoporosis around age 40, as estrogen production drops during menopause.

Strength training exercises with free weights, resistance bands, or weight machines will help slow the loss of minerals in the bones. Weight bearing aerobic exercises will raise your heart rate while your bones and muscles work against the force of gravity. When doing exercises like this, chemicals are released telling your bones to prepare themselves for more of this type of work, so your bones become denser and stronger. Other things, such as balance and muscle strength, are improved and reduce your chances for breaking bones in a fall.

BODIES…The Exhibition provides an intimate look into the skeletal system. For more information regarding the human skeleton and other parts of the human body, visit the exhibition nearest you



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Fecal Transplant

Dr. Thomas Borody, an Australian gastroenterologist, treats ulcers and diarrhea, but has expanded his expertise to other diseases.  One may ask why a doctor would treat an autoimmune disease like multiple sclerosis when they are educated in stomach ailments.

The answer comes from poop. Borody considers fecal matter to be the largest organ in the body because it contains nine times more bacterial cells than the human body contains human cells.

bodies blog fecal bacteriaDr. Borody performs fecal transplants,  a procedure that includes transplanting a healthy person’s stool into a sick person’s bowels. The healthy bacteria acts as an antibiotic to fight off other bacteria. While this procedure may seem unconventional, many had similar reservations on past experiments that have made incredible contributions to modern science. [1] Dr. Borody has been performing successful fecal transplants for several decades by taking the healthy stool, mixing it with a saline solution, and implanting the mixture into another person’s bowels. This process is similar to a colonoscopy.

An immunologist and gastroenterologist named Alex Khoruts has also been performing research regarding fecal matter.  He has linked fecal transplants to treating obesity and Parkinson’s disease.  In both cases, the damaged microbial organ benefits from the healthy bacteria in the transplanted stool. [2]




[1] – Medical Discoveries: Edward Jenner

[2] – Freakinomics: The Power of Poop - See more at:

Cloning Part I: Are Human's Next?

Cloning, once limited to science fiction novel fantasies, became reality in 1996 with the debut of Dolly. Scottish scientist Ian Wilmut cloned Dolly, a sheep, and ethical principles behind cloning came to the forefront of scientific debates. Since Dolly’s cloning cows, goats, pigs, rats, mice, rabbits, cats, dogs, horses and mules have also been cloned. If these mammals have been successfully cloned, then why hasn’t a human?


The most commonly referenced cloning process is reproductive cloning. Reproductive cloning is defined as “the production of a genetic duplicate of an existing organism.”[1]

Somantic cell nuclear transfer, SCNT, is the most common technique used in reproductive cloning and was used to produce Dolly. During SCNT, scientists transfer the nucleus of a body cell into an egg whose nucleus and genetic material have been removed. This is referred to as a “clonal embryo,” which is next treated with chemicals and electricity to trigger cell division.

The embryo is then placed in a female uterus where it stays until reaching full term. Part of the reason Dolly’s cloning was considered revolutionary is that prior to 1996 scientists believed embryonic stem cells were essential in cloning. Dolly was produced using an adult stem cell.

Although SCNT is the most widely used technique in cloning, successful cloning is still extremely rare. A reported 277 attempts were made before Dolly was successfully cloned. In 2004 the highest reported success rate for cloning animals was 5%, and the average was 1%. It has also been documented that as cloned animals age evident genetic problems commonly occur.[2]




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Cloning Part II: Are Human's Next?

Cloning humans is idealized through media and films for years. Viewers are fascinated by the idea that we could generate another Albert Einstein or Mother Teresa. But is the possibility of cloning a human all its cracked up to be?

Movies and books portray human cloning as the successful creation of a specific person’s exact copy, but that scenario would be unlikely. If a human were successfully cloned, the clone would enter the world as a baby, not an adult. While the clone baby would carry the same genetic material as its prototype, they would grow up in a different environment than the original human, therefore producing an adult with different character traits. Specific experiences, education level, and temperament contribute greatly to individual personality.[1]

While animal cloning is successful, “only about 1 or 2 viable offspring for every 100 experiments” [2] survives. This marginal success rate causes many scientists to believe that human cloning is not worth the risk. In the rare chance that a cloned offspring develops, 30% of clones will have a genetic defect based on past experiments.

Laws banning human cloning reduce subject participation. As of January 2008, fifteen states had banned reproductive cloning (cloning to produce a pregnancy). Some states, such as Arizona and Missouri, prohibit the use of public funds for research on human cloning.[3]

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Electronic Cigarettes

Electronic cigarettes, also known as E-Cigarettes, were introduced by a Chinese Manufacturing company called Ruyan in 2003. The device offers the same smoking sensation as a regular cigarette but is said to eliminate smoking’s lasting and harmful effects on health.  The E-Cigarette delivers nicotine in the form of vapor and is smokeless; therefore it can be used in the workplace, restaurants, and airports.   The liquid, which is available in a variety of flavors, is similar to tobacco made in Camel or Marlboro cigarettes. The liquid is turned into vapor through a rechargeable, battery operated heating element.

The FDA has shown restraint regarding the importation of E-Cigarettes.  While the E-Cigarette manufacturers claim their product has little-to-no harmful effects, there has not been any testing by the FDA.  The FDA has written multiple letters to manufacturers informing them they are in violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) and have classified this as a drug delivery device.  Their concern is that the E-Cigarette has been marketed inappropriately with a lack of proper health warnings. They fear the younger generation, or non-smokers, have been drawn to this device due to the novelty and constant claims of safety. [1]

In December 2010, a ruling stated that the E-Cigarette is a tobacco product, not a drug delivery device and the FDA cannot block the importation.  [2] The sale of E-Cigarettes is now up to state legislation.  Some states are working to ban E-Cigarettes based on their appeal to non-smokers, while other states are planning to make this product illegal to minors.




1.     FDA: For Consumers (

2.     Businessweek: FDA Loses Appeal, Can’t Regulate E-Cigarettes as Drug


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How Does Radiation Exposure Affect the Human Body?

Recent earthquakes and subsequent nuclear plant failures have increased radiation levels significantly in Japan’s Fukushima region. High radiation levels have been found in food grown up to 75 miles from the crippled nuclear plant, and many locals have been evacuated from towns surrounding the plant. The anxiety surrounding radiation and its effect on the human body has been plaguing people worldwide who fear that elevated radiation levels may drift as far as the US.



[1] IndiaToday

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Tuesday Trivia: Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy affects about 1 in 2,000 people. It is a chronic neurological disorder that is thought to be genetic. If a person is narcoleptic, their brain is not able to go through the proper stages of dozing and deep sleep. Instead, it falls directly in to REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.  A narcoleptic person can suffer from any of the following; cataplexy (loss of muscle control, often triggered by emotions), hallucinations, sleep paralysis, nigh-time wakefulness, rapid entry into REM sleep. Symptoms of narcolepsy usually begin around age 10 - 25. - See more at: