New human body part discovered

An assortment of news from the world of medicine…

New human body part discovered

Most people think that anatomy is a dead, dried-up, unchanging subject. Not true.

Two surgeons in Europe have just discovered a new ligament in the human knee.

An anatomist, over 100 years ago, hypothesized that this ligament existed, but it was only discovered recently during some gross dissections of the knee.

The surgeons were trying to understand more about repairing the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), and found this new structure. They’ve named it the Anterolateral Ligament (ALL).

Human knee, via NIH.

Human knee, via NIH.

White fat (bad) vs. brown fat (better)

White fat is the fat that makes up beer bellies and love handles. It’s one of the ways that the body stores excess calories.

Some white fat is good, too much, not so. Excess white fat in the abdomen can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, among other things.

Brown fat, on the other hand, is metabolically active and acts to burn calories and help with weight loss. Adults don’t have a lot of brown fat.

Under certain circumstances, however, white fat can be converted to “beige fat” which is more metabolically active and can help with weight loss. Researchers have found that exposure to cold temperatures, and eating hot chili peppers, may cause increases in brown fat, or production of beige fat, with concomitant loss of weight.

Pharmaceutical companies are also looking at targeting this phenomenon to make a different kind of diet pill.

For organic chemistry geeks, name this compound:

chemistry

Loud-mouthed attention-seeking nymphomaniac

Female bonobos have sex with dominant males to gain status in their groups.

While having sex, the female is especially loud to call attention to herself.

New Hepatitis C drugs

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) causes liver disease, can lead to cirrhosis and predisposes to liver cancer.

The treatment now consists of peg-interferon and ribavirin. The treatment can have some severe side effects that may cause some patients to stop therapy. Side effects include: severe depression, anemia, chest pain, baldness and others.

Some new medications may get FDA approval in 2014. These medications seem to have fewer side effects, don’t need to be given for as long as the peginterferon-ribavirin combination, and can be taken orally just once per day.

Depending on the medication, 80-100% of patients treated seem to have cleared the virus completely, a possible “cure.”


Mark Thoma, MD, is a physician who did his residency in internal medicine. Mark has a long history of social activism, and was an early technogeek, and science junkie, after evolving through his nerd phase. Favorite quote: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science... is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny.'” - Isaac Asimov

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