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Spanning The Globe- August 2023

It’s time to go spanning the globe for anatomy news and notes:



That’s Old


When it comes to fossils, it’s doubtful that the fossil of a jellyfish is the first thing that comes to mind. Something with “jelly” in its name hardly sounds like an organism that could leave a remnant behind—let alone traces that would last for 505 million years.


But Jean-Bernard Caron, a paleontologist at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, report they found a cache of jellyfish fossils in the Canadian Rockies. Caron’s paper was published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.


Caron believes these fossils may be the oldest jellyfish known to science.


According to an article in The New York Times, the fossils were preserved in stunning detail including upward of 90 tentacles “which stick out of the creature’s bell-shaped body like the strings at the end of a tassel rug.”


Photo credit: Photo by Ganapathy Kumar on Unsplash


Yes, there’s debate about whether these jellyfish represent a new species and deserve a new classification, but the analysis shows that these jellyfish (a.k.a. medusozoans) were already established by the time of the Cambrian period, when life exploded.


By the way, the name “jellyfish” has been used since the late 18th century and has traditionally been applied to medusae and all similar animals including comb jellies (ctenophores).


Pop quiz: what do you call a group of jellyfish?


Answer: either a “smack” or a “smuck.”


Now you know.



Quick Scan


On Star Trek, a medical ‘tricoder’ quickly analyzes a patient’s medical condition. Science fiction?


Not really.


The concept is getting closer and closer to reality and now researchers from the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) have developed a portable, radiation-free scanner using Magnetic Particle Imaging (MPI), according to SciTechDaily.


The new technique is capable of visualizing dynamic processes like blood flow in the human body. It’s based on the detection of magnetic nanoparticles administered as markers.


Such nanoparticles do not occur naturally in the human body and must be administered as markers. The new scanner— interventional Magnetic Particle Imaging, or iMPI—is based on the response signal of the magnetic nanoparticles to magnetic fields.


By the way, the Star Trek ‘tricorder’ notion inspired a serious medical device competition a few years ago. (It looks like this competition is now defunct.) In 2017, Scientific American reported on the competition’s main winner, known as DxtER and created by US firm Basil Leaf Technologies.


The “device” was essentially an iPad app that tapped into artificial intelligence. Judges for the competition said the winner and another runner-up accurately diagnosed 13 diseases—all in one single, user-friendly and portage diagnostic system.


Beam me up, Scotty.



Be Still My Beating ____


According to Interesting Engineering, researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute and the Imperial College of London have successfully mapped the cells in the heart’s cardiac conduction system (CCS). The system is a complex network of muscles, nodes, and signals in the walls of the heart. The researchers not only profiled CCS but a total of 75 cell types in eight regions of the heart.


Dr. James Cranley, co-lead researcher and a Ph.D. Fellow at Sanger, claims this is the first time such a detailed mapping of human heart cells has been achieved.


The study is part of the Human Cell Atlas (HCA) program, a global research initiative that aims to fully map the 37.2 trillion cells that make up the human body.


37.2 trillion!


Over 2,900 scientists in 94 countries are working on this ambitious project.


A few of the initial findings:


  1. Glial cells, also found in the brain, appear to communicate with pacemaker cells, assist in releasing the neurotransmitter glutamate that changes the heart rate and cardiac output.

  2. Some muscle cells in a diseased heart produce Brain Natriuretic Peptide (BNP), a hormone that serves as a clinical biomarker for detecting heart failure. The researchers discovered that healthy heart cells also produce some amount of BNP, and the number of such cells increases as the heart becomes more prone to failure.

  3. The immune system is designed to protect the human heart from both internal and external threats. For instance, plasma cells located right outside the heart’s surface release antibodies to protect the heart from infections affecting nearby organs such as the lungs.


“The new findings on the heart’s electrical conduction system and its regulation are likely to open up new approaches to preventing and treating rhythm disturbances that can impair the heart’s function and may even become life-threatening,” said Metin Avkiran, the director of the British Heart Foundation and an expert in molecular cardiology.


We have no doubt!


Further proof that the study of human anatomy involves all macro and micro analysis. Put us down for amazed at this detailed work.

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