Thursday, November 7, 2013

What do you mean we don't know everything??!!??

The study of anatomy is fascinating! We humans walk around all day in these meat sacks filled with water held upright by a skeleton; however, we know very little about what is actually going on. It seems rather important to understand our bodies so that we can properly care for them. So important for some that they would risk their lives for a chance to learn more. And still today, we are adding to the landmarks that make up our human body, though the risks involved are a bit less drastic.

Anatomy has a dangerous and sorted past. At least as far back as 1600 BCE, the Egyptians were studying anatomy and had discovered: the heart (and its vessels),spleen, liver, kidneys, hypothalamus, uterus and bladder. It seems that they were learning by dissecting the victims of human sacrifice. The father of anatomy, Herophilus, carried out the first systematic human dissections on criminals. Then 1500 years later, research on cadavers was occurring in both England and Scotland where the religious thoughts at the time left those interested in furthering this research with their only option being to dig corpses out of graves. As you can imagine, this came with some legal implications, societal frustrations, and I'm sure those involved seemed to almost disappear from society since their work had to be carried out at night. Imagine if you found out your neighbor was digging people up from graves to cut them apart - yikes! Nonetheless, I am grateful to these somewhat disturbed folks because they built the foundation for what I love to study!

Today, anatomical research isn't quite so seemy. Those involved in anatomical science, can legally work with cadavers and the use of formaldehyde keeps tissues from decaying as you work. Though the smell isn't appealing, it has to be better than those of the past experienced. Society doesn't exactly love the idea of cadaver labs; however, working in one no longer comes with a death sentence.

Here we are in 2013 and science is still discovering new human body parts. Just this week, the existence of a new piece of human knee anatomy was announced. Meet the Anterolateral ligament (ALL):
An image of a right knee after a full dissection of the anterolateral ligament (ALL). (Credit: University Hospitals Leuven)

Back in 1879 a French doctor wrote an article suggesting the existence of a previously unknown ligament in the human knee. A couple of Belgian doctors, Dr Steven Claes and Professor Dr Johan Bellemans, just became the first to prove the existence of this by finding it in 40 of 41 cadaveric knees studied.

It seems that this new ligament could be a key in why something called the "pivot-shift" occurs after a successful ACL surgery. The two doctors are now researching techniques to better repair damage to the knees. Unfortunately, it might be a couple of years before their research is complete.


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