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Today is exactly one year since Organ Story was released! Lets all have a celebratory heart attack.

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Some of the ways our organs communicate with each other… This is scientifically correct.

Go to the sources to fund this project! (Disclaimer: I am in no way connected to this project, and they did not reach out to me for advertisement. I just like it, and would like to see the books published)

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Fig 1. In 2008, bioengineers at the University of Minnesota stripped rat hearts of cells using detergent — you can see the results of three trials here. This process left untouched the blood vessels, collagen, and various proteins that compose the heart’s physical structure.

Fig 2. The ghost heart is flushed with red dye to show that major and minor blood vessels were left intact.

Fig 3. A researcher injects the ghost heart with heart cells from newborn mice.

Fig 4. Researchers adjusted the environmental conditions to simulate natural conditions, meaning they provided oxygenate fluids, pressure, and an electrical stimulus. You can see the bioreactor schematic here.

GIF source here. Research paper here. Less technical writeup here. More videos from the lab itself here (Supplementary Movie 1 in particular is pretty awesome).

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Helen Pynor: Liquid Ground

Helen Pynor is an Australian artist whose practice incorporates sculpture and more recently photography. Drawing on her dual backgrounds in Biology and Visual Arts, Pynor’s works explore the interiority of the body and other living organisms. In her recent photographic series, Liquid Ground, Pynor has created a suite of Type-C prints that are face mounted to glass, creating a cool, watery atmosphere. Her images of visceral bodily organs floating through gossamer garments underwater are unerringly beautiful and melancholic, in narratives past and present.

Pynor was the winner of the RBS Emerging Artist Award 2009 and also the joint winner of the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award 2008. Liquid Ground was on show during November/December 2010, at Dominik Mersch Gallery, Sydney.

C-Print, diasec on glass. All images courtesy the artist and Dominik Mersch Gallery

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Splanchnology - The study or discourse of the viscera (guts) - Greek: Splanchn(o), “viscera”.

Stomach (organ) - From Latin stomachus, “throat, gullet, stomach” [also “pride, indignation”, since those emotions were believed to arise from the stomach]. Derived from Greek stomachos, “throat, stomach”, literally an extension of stoma, "mouth, opening"
Pertaining to the stomach - Gastr(o)-, Ventr(o)-

Abdomen - “Belly fat”, from Latin abdomen, meaning, well, what it does today. Ultimate origin of the word is unknown.
Pertaining to the abdomen - Laparo-, Abdomin(o)-, Ventr(o)-

Digestion - From Latin dis-, “apart”, gerere, “to carry”, “to assimilate food in the bowels
Pertaining to digestion - -pepsia

Lungs - From Old English lungen, from Proto-Germanic *lungw-, literally “the light organ”, legwh-, “not heavy, having little weight”. Probably from the fact that lungs float when put in water (and other organs do not).
Pertaining to the lungs - Pulmo-, Pneumo-

Liver - From Proto-Indo-European (PIE) *liep-, “to stick, adhere, fat”
Pertaining to the liver - Hepat(o)-, Hepatic, Jecor- (uncommon)

Pancreas - From Greek pankreas, "sweetbread", from pan-, “all”, and -kreas, “flesh”, presumably from the fleshy, uniform nature of the pancreas.
Pertaining to the pancreas - Pancrea-

Kidney - From Middle English kidenere, origin unknown. Possibly from cwið , “womb”, and ey, “egg”, for its shape.
Pertaining to the kidney - Nephro-, Ren(o)-

Intestines - From the Latin intestina, “inward, intestine”, from intus, “within, on the inside”. [Old English for the organ was hropp, “rope”]
Pertaining to the intestines - [Small intestine] Enter(o)-, Duoden-, Jejeun(o)- [Large intestine/Colon] Col(o)-, Sigmoid-

Spleen - From Greek splen, "the milt, spleen". From PIE *splegh-, “milt” [Note: “Milt” - fish sperm - got its name from the Proto-Germanic name for spleen, but the word once meant “guts” in general]
Pertaining to the spleen - Splen(o)-

Gall bladder - Gall from Old English galla, “gall, bile”, from PIE root *ghel- "yellowish green, gold". Bladder origin the same as urinary bladder. 
Pertaining to the gall bladder - Cholecysto-, [Bile] Chol(e)-

Bladder - From Old English bledre, “urinary bladder, cystic pimple”, from PIE root *bhle-, "to blow" [same root as "blast"!]
Pertaining to the bladder - Vesic(o)-, Cyst(o)-

Learn more about medical and biological etymology on Biomedical Ephemera!

[Images from Historical Anatomies on the Web]

[Etymologies from Online Etymology Dictionary, who you should love and give money to]

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Anatomy and Position of the Kidney in the body

The kidney is a fascinating and under-appreciated organ. Even its name is interesting: while the Greek nephros and the Latin renes are both used as medical terms for the kidney and its anatomy, the origin of the common name in English - “kidney” - is actually unknown. It may be from the Old English terms cwið (womb) + ey (egg), from its shape, but there is no clear consensus on its origins.

The kidney serves many functions, but its most obvious is creating urine. The process of doing that is surprisingly complex, and involves regulation of blood pressure, re-absorbing vital nutrients, excreting urea from protein catabolism, and secreting hormones such as erythropoietin (which stimulates red blood cell creation).

These are four major sections of the kidney:

  • Capsule - A tough, fibrous layer of tissue, surrounded by a thick layer of fat, which protects the kidney.
  • Cortex - Just inside the capsule, the outermost layer of the kidney itself, which contains renal corpuscules and tubules. Ultrafiltration and erythropoietin production happens here.
  • Medulla -  The inner tissue of the kidney, split up into renal pyramids. This is where the arteries split up, serum comes out of the blood, and ions and glucose are processed.
  • Renal Pelvis - This is the convergence point of the major calcyes, and funnels urine into the ureter, which goes to the bladder. The transitional epithelium in this section of the kidney is the cause of many types of kidney cancers.

Anatomy: Descriptive and Applied. Henry Gray, 1918.

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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.

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