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Spanning the Globe V

Once again, it’s time for another round-up of all the anatomy news that’s fit to blog about!

You can’t really say Leonardo da Vinci is having a moment or a revival—because he never really goes away—but he sure seems to be making the rounds again. A recent NOVA documentary, “Decoding da Vinci,” probes the mysteries behind some of da Vinci’s most brilliant works. Da Vinci (1452-1519) lacked formal medical training yet is believed to have dissected more than 30 bodies in his lifetime. Da Vinci correctly described the heart as the center of the blood system. And he was first to understand that the heart was a muscle with four chambers. He discovered how small vortices of blood help shut the aortic valve.

However, his scientific papers and anatomical drawings went unpublished for centuries. So his understanding of the aortic valve and how it functioned wasn’t confirmed until the late 1960s! Da Vinci’s anatomical analysis began as a means to improve his art. In fact, says documentary producer Doug Hamilton, da Vinci didn’t draw distinctions between art and science. Art and science working more hand in hand? There’s a campaign we could get behind.

Yvonne Vinall seems nearly enthusiastic about the fact that she’s going to donate her body to science. She’s 86 years old now. She posted nude into her seventies. She has already made arrangements to donate her body to Kings College London to help students under the anatomy of the human body. “I might still feel like a mischievous 18-year-old inside, but I have a pacemaker, I've had my cataracts done, and I have false knees, hips and shoulders. When they get me on the slab, they will have an awful lot to work with,” she joked in a story published by Yahoo News. “I'm not at all scared, although all my friends say God will probably keep me down here for as long as possible.” Hats off (but that’s all!) to Yvonne.

Speaking of art, if you happen to find yourself in Singapore before Dec. 22, check out the exhibit at Yeo Workshop (Gillman Barracks) of the works of Solamalay Namasivayam. Namasivayam (Nama to his friends) died in 2013 at the age 87. He was interested in anatomy and would visit the morgue to draw the human body. He was also considered a pioneer of figurative art and “an old-school intellectual who listened to Dvorak, quoted Dante and did not suffer fools,” according to an article in The Straits Times. In a 1997 interview with the National Archives of Singapore, Nama described the human figure as “the most difficult of all subjects of art … If you can master it, you can literally draw anything.” Art and anatomy—two of our favorite things! We are thrilled to see Nama getting the attention he deserves.

Yes, biomimicry, “the creation of new devices or techniques based on those seen in living organisms.” Check out what scientists discovered with the finger-sized northern clingfish, which has inspired the creation of super-suction devices modeled on the rock-grabbing technique of the tiny fish. Petra Ditsche, a biomechanicist, studies how living things move. She investigated the clingfish’s gripping prowess while working at the University of Washington.

Her tests showed that even when a rock’s surface is rough and slick, these fish can withstand a pulling force equal to more than 150 times their weight! The details of how Ditsche and fellow scientist Adam Summers analyzed the suction prowess are fascinating (you’ll have to read the whole article in Science News for Students) but the applications for their new “grippers” include attaching migration-tracking sensors to whales—for research purposes.

Now that’s full-circle—science serving science! And if you think fish anatomy has nothing to do with human anatomy, well, think again.







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