Are warning labels on food a good idea?

Every now and then we hear people calling for warning labels on food with high salt, sugar or fat content. Is this a good idea?

We have all heard about the evils of salt, sugar and fat.  All of these are good in moderation, and are found in almost everything we eat. 

But our modern packaged-food society seems to get an overdose of all three. Most packaged foods have extra salt, sugar and fat added to provide artificial taste, texture and preservation. [Read more…]

WHAT?! Synthetic Ears Give Accident Victims New Outlook

Can someone who has lost an ear in an accident ever look whole again? This article explains how we can now regrow and even “print” new ears.

Having ears is not something many of us think about; we just have them and that’s the end of it. But when accidents or disease happen, a missing ear can be unbelievably disfiguring as well as negatively impacting our hearing. The congenital condition of microtia, when a person is born without an outer ear, has spearheaded most research to date.

Ears can be printed using 3D printing

What is truly astounding is that ears can actually be regrown; regrown exactly like your original ear. But if this is not an option for you because of complicated medical reasons, it may be possible to just “print “you an ear with a 3D printer. How amazing is that?

How can an ear be regrown?

This is the result of the miracle of tissue engineering. Not only can ears be regrown, but soon cartilage, livers, kidneys and many “replacement parts” will be able to be generated in the lab for your use. There are at least two ways an ear can be regrown; on the back of a mouse, and on the patient’s own forearm. Deciding which way depends on the condition of the skin of the patient; whether it is healthy enough to grow a replacement ear.

The way it works is a “scaffold” is built out of a biodegradable material. Then cartilage cells are “planted” in the skin about 3 millimeters apart. What is great about the scaffold is that it can be shaped into any form needed, so ears can be customized. The scaffold can be “planted” on the back of a mouse (without harming the mouse) or on the forearm of a patient. If the ear is grown on a mouse, the mouse has to have no immune system so it does not reject the ear. If the ear is grown on a patient’s forearm, there is no worry of rejection since the cells come from the patient themselves. When the ear is ready, it is surgically removed and attached over the patient’s ear canal.

How are ears “printed” with a 3D printer?

First, a digitized 3D image of a human ear is taken and converted to a digitized solid ear by using a 3D printer. From this, a mould is made and filled with a gel of living cartilage cells. In about 3 months, the ear is completed, removed from the mould and is then surgically placed on the patient.

What about using rib cage cartilage to make a new ear?

When a patient’s best option is to use cartilage from their own body, this is a possibility. The procedure takes a bit longer, but the results are cosmetically better overall. Cartilage is taken from the ribcage of a patient, shaped in the basic form of an ear and implanted under the skin of the forearm. It is left there for about 4 months so the skin can grow over it. Then, it is surgically removed and placed over the ear canal. Gradually, over many months and surgeries, The ear is matched to the other ear.

What other ways to replace ears are being researched?

Bioengineers in Massachusetts are experimenting with living tissue from other animals besides human. They have built an artificial human ear by putting together tissues from cows and sheep, and then placing the tissues around a wire frame that allows the tissues to grow into the correct shape of an ear. The wire used is titanium and can be shaped with much detail. The ear is then placed on a mouse to grow until it can be attached to a patient’s head.

Bioengineering may be only in its infancy, but already look at the amazing things it can do. Imagine what will be able to be accomplished in 10 or 20 years!

Happy Thanksgiving

Yes, today is Thanksgiving for readers in the USA, and just as good a time as any for the rest of us to focus on giving thanks.

In fact, while Thanksgiving will be overshadowed for many Americans by tomorrow’s “Black Friday” shopping crush, the rest of us will be free to retain some of the peace and calm that Thanksgiving should bestow.

You can thank God if you believe or your lucky stars if you don’t. The important thing today is to thank.

If you spend as much time on the Internet as I do, you could be forgiven for thinking that we should be most grateful for iPhones and bacon.  Feel free to be thankful for these.  But surely there are more important things, better things, to be grateful for.

After some reflection, these boil down to three for me.  You will probably have a similar list, although not necessarily identical.

HEALTH: My eyesight is not what it used to be and my knees do hurt at times, but all in all I am quite healthy.  Since we come in this package called a body, there is little we do that is not greatly impacted by our health and fitness.  Some of that is within your control, some is not.  Give thanks for that part that you have been given, and do what you can to enhance it with sleep, exercise and proper food.

FAMILY: I know how lucky I am to have a loving family.  I know not everybody is so blessed.  Again, my blessings are a result of the chances I have been given, but also the result of actions I am constantly taking to enhance these gifts.  You need to work at love. You have to put others first. You have to build trust. To hold onto love you have been given, you have to love others. Like health, family is a gift that can be lost if neglected.  Which brings me to the third item, which I have a hard time articulating…

STRENGTH: I chose “strength”, although it might not be the most accurate word.  What I mean is the good and giving in me – strength to do what is right, patience with people around me (which is not always easy in the high stress of an active family), strength to love even when frustrated and feeling more like saying “Oh, yeah?!?”  If there is one thing I pray for the most, by far, it is this strength, this focus.  I wish I could say I always have it, but I don’t.  But I know how many times I find that strength that could just as well be absent, and I am deeply grateful for that gift.

I could also have added “freedom” to this list, thinking of so many people who live in repressive regimes or under the control of a repressive person.  Or “peace”, thinking of people living with the daily threat of bombs in the Israeli region.  My prayers go out to all those people, too.

But today, I have chosen more personal traits that I enjoy and appreciate in peace, but would need so much more if I was in a place of conflict or repression.

There are millions of little things to be grateful for, of course, and we should never pass a moment without being grateful for something.  Never flush the toilet without feeling gratitude that you have a flush toilet.  Never drink water without feeling gratitude that you have fresh, disease-free water to drink.  Never staple papers together without feeling the gratitude that you have this little convenience.

And what I said earlier about bacon and iPhones…go ahead an be thankful every time you use them. Gratitude is a pillar of happiness.

But today is a great time to look at the big picture.  To give thanks for the gifts you have that make you the wonderful person you are.