Scientists Create a 3-D Model That Mimics Brain Function

For the first time, bioengineers have produced a kind of rudimentary “brain in a dish.” The 3-D model could eventually lead to new ways of studying disease, injury, and treatment.

The research, led by David Kaplan, the chairman of the bioengineering department at Tufts University, and published Monday in the journal PNAS, is the latest example of biomedical engineering being used to make realistic models of organs such as the heart, lungs and liver.

Brain models have been mostly two-dimensional or made with a three-dimensional gel, said Rosemarie Hunziker, program director of tissue engineering and biomaterial at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, which funded Dr. Kaplan’s research.

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Renal connections to the urinary system and the vessels of the hepatic parenchyma

[Remember: RenalKidney and Hepatic Liver]

The liver, like most organs, has a stroma, which is the connective tissue that provides structure, and a parenchyma, which is the functional part of the organ.

The parenchyma of the liver is highly vascularized, and hepatocytes form lobules (the filtering units) in hexagonal groups, centered around a central vein. These veins, arteries, and bile ducts (leading to and from the gall bladder -  the balloon seen in the bottom center of the image) facilitate the processing of foods and toxins from the intestines.

In general, the liver is extremely good at its job - paired with the kidneys’ ability to filter the general blood supply, we’ve evolved to process almost all environmental and ingested toxins that are presented to us in our day-to-day lives. After all, we could never have eaten raw meat and survived on dirty roots for most of our evolutionary history without that.

While some conditions, such as cirrhosis and renal failure inhibit our ability to process environmental toxins, adding “detoxification” scams to what your body has to process can actually harm, more than help. There are already established and effective medical procedures and diets for those with genuine organ troubles.

Anatome quartum renovata. Thomae Bartholini, 1684.

Budd–Chiari syndrome is a condition caused by occlusion of the hepatic veins that drain the liver. It presents with the classical triad of abdominal pain, ascites and hepatomegaly. Examples of occlusion include thrombosis of hepatic veins.

The acute syndrome presents with rapidly progressive severe upper abdominal pain, jaundice, hepatomegaly (enlarged liver), ascites, elevated liver enzymes, and eventually encephalopathy. The fulminant syndrome presents early with encephalopathy and ascites. Severe hepatic necrosis and lactic acidosis may be present as well. Caudate lobe hypertrophy is often present. The majority of patients have a slower-onset form of Budd–Chiari syndrome. This can be painless. A system of venous collaterals may form around the occlusion which may be seen on imaging as a “spider’s web.” Patients may progress to cirrhosis and show the signs of liver failure.

The skin communicates with the liver

Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark have discovered that the skin is capable of communicating with the liver. The discovery has surprised the scientists, and they say that it may help our understanding of how skin diseases can affect the rest of the body.

Ref: Ditte Neess, Signe Bek, Maria Bloksgaard, Ann-Britt Marcher, Nils J. Færgeman, Susanne Mandrup: Delayed Hepatic Adaptation to Weaning in ACBP/Mice Is Caused by Disruption of the Epidermal Barrier. Cell Report. Dec 5 2013.

Caption: Scientists covered the mice with blue latex to prevent evaporation from the skin and thus stop the heat loss. With this loss the mice stopped accumulating fat in the liver. This shows that the skin is communicating with the liver. Credit: Birgitte Svennevig/SDU.

Accelerated aging and organ damage with chronic alcohol abuse

The chemical we call “alcohol" is actually ethanol - one of many chemicals that are alcohols (which is any compound with a hydroxyl functional group).

It’s also one of the most ancient intoxicants; the fermentation of beer predates the domestication of horses (~6000 years ago vs. 5500 years ago), though the first recorded recipe (and definitive proof of intentional brewing) was not until 3900 BCE, in ancient Sumeria.

This illustration shows the accelerated aging, ulceration of the stomach, and cirrhosis of the liver in a man who has abused alcohol since he was a teenager. While the body has defenses against acute alcohol toxicity, such as vomiting the irritating alcohol from the stomach (as well as the negative mental associations we make with hangovers, of course), it does not have the same defenses against chronic excessive alcohol consumption. As one develops a tolerance for alcohol, and drinks more frequently, the brain becomes dependent upon it.

Alcohol is one of the few drugs that is absorbed directly through the stomach, for the most part. This can cause significant ulceration and scleroses (hardening) with chronic abuse. As the liver is where the alcohol and its by-products are processed, consistent abuse of the substance can cause significant organ damage.

Die Frau als Hausärztin
. Dr. Anna Fitcher-Duckelmann, 1911.

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Liver Structure and the Flow of Blood and Bile

3D printed Liver

I fee like my blog is becoming a 3-D printing blog.. but I can’t stop! How amazing is this? Honestly, looking at a liver, it just seems like a big hard block of tissue. It’s very hard to visualize the vessels going through the liver, and when you are removing a tumor or cancerous tissue, it can be very difficult. 

Dr. Zein’s team from Cleveland Clinic has used this method in over 30 cases so far with very high success rates. It has allowed his team to decrease the amount of time in operation, and prepare more thoroughly!

I love these transparent livers.. I really need one for my room.