Thursday, 24 July 2014

Pulling Teeth.

Teeth have always fascinated me. The little pearly chompers in our mouths help us to speak, chew, show our feelings and give structure to our faces. As we know, we are born with 2 sets of teeth: milk teeth which start to sprout at 6 months old and fall out around the age of 6/7 and are replaced by the adult teeth which we have for the rest of our lives.

On average, most adults have 32 teeth comprising of 8 incisors, 4 canines, 8 premolars, 12 molars and 4 wisdom teeth. I use the word average, as some people do not have wisdom teeth either through dental choice, or they just have not grown through.

picture of a skull with both
adult and baby teeth still intact.
Astonishingly a 17 year old boy called Ashik Gavai has had 232 teeth removed from his mouth this week. This is 7 times the amount of teeth found in the average adult mouth.  The 17 year old had a swelling on the right hand side of his face, in the area of his lower jaw.  He sought medical help and was referred to the JJ hospital where his condition was found to be complex odontoma (where there is a mass of dental tissue (e.g. enamel, dentin or cementum) found as little toothlets in the lower jaw), and he was operated upon. All of the odontoma was removed and there will be no permenant damage to the structure, shape or function of his lower jaw.

Explorer Fact: there are 2 types of odontoma: compound and complex.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Mooning Around.

Upon gazing out of the living room window and looking up into the deep navy night sky, I noticed that the celestial body, which we have known to love, the moon, looked rather different. It was much bigger and looked much brighter than normal. Intrigued I looked into the cycles and phases of the moon and discovered that this phenomena was due to a super moon.

A beautiful supermoon above the Washington Monument.
A super moon occurs when the moon appears as either a full or new moon in the sky whilst coinciding with being in as close as a position to Earth as possible during it's elliptical orbit...thus the moon will look bigger and brighter!

The term super moon was coined in 1979 by Richard Nolle, however it's technical name is perigee-syzygy. When a moon is a super moon it is positioned roughly 357,000km away from the Earth, and so is 14% larger and 30% brighter than when the moon is at it's furthest position from the Earth (406,000km).

Super moons occur fairly regularly and a maximum of 3 super moons can occur within 1 full moon cycle. Meaning that every 14th moon is irregular and super!!

Explorer Fact: the next super moon is the night of August 10th.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

From me to you.

Transplants (allogenic transplants (transplants from 1 person to another)) are a marvellous medical way of prolonging the life of people struck down by certain debilitating diseases; extending their life for a considerable number of years and often giving them a 'second shot' at life. However transplants are very difficult to carry out and their success rests upon a variety of factors such as: matching blood types, matching HLA groups and MHC classes, and the viability of the organ itself (is it not damaged, free from disease, etc.).

The most poignant factor of all is the distance between the donor and the recipient. This is because as soon as an organ is taken out of the body, it is cut off from the blood supply and all of the nutrients passed through the blood, and consequently the organ begins to die slowly, cell by cell, until it is placed back into a body environment and connected to a blood supply. Consequently the further away the donor and recipient are away from each other, the greater the chance of the organ becoming damaged due to lack of blood supply and nutrients and dying through hypoxia, and the organ being unable to be used and consequently "wasted".

Therefore many new techniques have been tested to try and preserve the organ on its journey to its new 'home'. Recently American researchers have tried the technique of supercooling. Supercooling reduces the temperature of the organ to around -6C. This slows down the metabolic rate of the cells within the organ (it will use up the nutrients contained within it much more slowly). This was tested on rat livers. The results showed that the rat livers could be preserved in a viable state for up to 3 days, which is a 3 fold increase on the 24 hours which is currently adhered to. The hope is that the experiment will be progressed into trials onto a human liver, which is significantly heavier and larger than the rat liver, which could suggest that the temperature for cooling needs to be lowered accordingly.

The overall outcome desired from this experimental trial is that it could open the doors for the possibility of worldwide organ transplants and donations- between those in different countries. This would greatly increase the number of available organs and donors, but also it will also increase the number of those in need of that crucial organ. In the UK the number of donors is much lower than the number of people who require an organ and consequently a transplant list is drawn up and it works on the basis of those most in need and those closest to the donor will receive the organ.