top of page

Spanning the Globe - II

Once again, we are here to round up all the anatomy new that’s fit to blog about! Here are some recent items worth noting:

One of the very coolest stories recently should have been page one news. This one is pretty wild. Scientists recently announced research showing that man’s progress into agriculture changed the way the human jaw is shaped and that shift, in turn, expanded the range of our vocal sounds. Yes, the advent of crops led to the introduction of soft foods and that led to an expanded vocabulary. Don’t you love evolution? This idea has been around since 1985 and was initially suggested by an American linguist named Charles Hockett. Now, an international team of researchers, led by the University of Zurich, confirmed the theory. They drew on historical linguistics, paleoanthropology data, as a well as biomechanical simulations of sound production. The idea is that eating softer foods like cheese led to a change in the way teeth wear and that led to a shift in the bite patterns, too. Those changes made it easier to pronounce such sounds as “f” and “v.” Very valuable fun facts!

Like us, we assume that you only read books about anatomy in your book club, right? This new one looks fascinating—Skeleton Keys: The Secret Life of Bones by Brian Switek. Brian Switek, who has had bylines in top-flight periodicals and newspapers, explains where our skeletons came from, what they do inside us, and what others can learn about us when these artifacts of mineral and protein are all we've left behind. Writing about Skeleton Keys on the Massive Science website, Rutgers University’s Darcy said this: “Skeleton Keys (takes) readers on a fascinating tour of the human skeleton, from its humble evolutionary beginnings as the hard parts that protected fossil fish from predators, through its use in reconstructing the lives of past people and populations, to questions of what happens to our skeletons after death … The narrative in Skeleton Keys spans millions of years and offers readers insights into their own anatomy and evolution, but is also very current in its treatment of how the skeleton has been misused to prop up problematic assumptions about sex, gender, and race.” Sounds like a “must read” to us.

If you find yourself in Connecticut before May 20, check out “William Hunter and the Anatomy of the Modern Museum” at the Yale Center for British Art. Hunter (1718-1783) was the first professor of anatomy at the Royal Academy of Art. Hunter was Queen Charlotte’s personal accoucheur (French for ‘man-midwife’) and oversaw delivery of her 14 healthy children. Anyway, Hunter’s collection of art, artifacts, and assorted natural specimens is what is on display at the museum along with his “groundbreaking” obstetrical atlas. As the museum website states, “this exhibition ruminates on the entanglement of science and art in a time when the debate over the nature of true itself was still ongoing.” Sounds like it’s worth the trip!

While you’re out traveling around and if you find yourself in Edinburgh, a recent news story on SyFyWire alerted us to “Surgeon’s Hall,” which sounds like another mandatory stop. Surgeons' Hall is the headquarters for the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, which dates back to the 1500’s. The Museum at Surgeons' Hall is much younger; it only dates back to 1699. Even Daniel Defoe of Robinson Crusoe fame declared the museum to be a “chamber of rarities.” Primarily, the building has served as a hub for the College in the teaching of anatomy and surgery. Edinburgh was something of a hub of medical innovation in the 19th century, with some of the most influential figures in surgery getting their start in the city. Today, the most well-known aspect of Edinburgh's anatomical history can be found in the infamy of Burke and Hare, the murderers who sold bodies to Dr. Robert Knox, who worked as a conservator at the museum. After his death by hanging on the charges of murder, William Burke was dissected at the college and his skeleton remains on display there, SyFy reports, as well as his death mask and a pocketbook made from his skin.

Matthias Gunzer from the University of Duisburg-Essen (in Germany) was studying fluorescent-dyed blood cells in mice and discovered something quite by accident. He observed that the cells under the microscope appeared to pass through what should have been solid bone. Perplexed by this, as we learned on the website News.Am, Gunzer devised a research study. Gunzer and his team used a chemical called ethyl cinnamate on mice tibiae to “clear” the bones, making them transparent. Then, using a combination of light-sheet fluorescence microscopy and X-ray microscopy, they detected several hundred tiny “trans-cortical vessels” passing through the cortical layer of the leg bones. A mouse tibia can contain more than 1,000 of these small capillaries! The team reported that over 80 percent of arterial and 59 percent of venous blood passes through the channels. These ‘trans-cortical vessels’ are new to science—and reveal a whole secret network of tunnels inside the bone. As News.Am smirked, Elon Musk would approve. Fascinating.



bottom of page