ISTOCK
ISTOCK

Scientists May Be Able to Recycle Used Organs

ISTOCK
ISTOCK

A pancreas is a terrible thing to waste, yet hundreds of the donated organs are thrown out each year. That may change: Scientists now say they've found a way to recycle the used organs into new pancreases.

A healthy pancreas helps its owner digest his or her food, and releases the chemicals that help regulate blood sugar. Unfortunately, many people don’t have healthy pancreases. More than a million Americans have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, a disease caused by a dysfunctional pancreas. But only a few of those people will get a new pancreas: only three out of every 10,000 people with type 1 diabetes will ever get a pancreas or pancreas cell transplant.

There are a few reasons for this. First, pancreases (or “pancreata,” to use the plural preferred by scientists) don’t grow on trees. The pool of donated pancreata is pretty small to begin with. Then there’s the fact that about 25 percent of these organs will be deemed defective and discarded. Lastly, organ transplant is currently a grueling and risky process. There’s a very real possibility that a person’s body will reject the new organ. To make matters worse, the drugs used to prevent that rejection are really hard on the body, and they have to be taken for the rest of a person’s life.

Two of these challenges—wasting donated organs and a lifetime of unpleasant drugs—may be close to solutions. Scientists from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and elsewhere believe they’ve found a way to recycle donated pancreata that may also cut down on the need for rejection-prevention medication. Their findings were recently published in the Annals of Surgery.

The recycling begins with a process called decellularization, which literally removes an organ’s cells. The organs are washed with special mild detergents that strip out the cells while leaving the organ’s framework, or extracellular matrix, intact. Into this scaffolding, the researchers say, they can insert cells from the transplant patient. The result is a brand-new pancreas made largely from the patient’s own body, which eliminates the risk that the transplant will be rejected, thereby eliminating the need for anti-rejection drugs.

At this point, it’s all fairly theoretical. The researchers started with 25 real human pancreases, but the finished products were not implanted into people. The researchers did, however, run tests on the new pancreas structures to find out how they would affect a live immune system. Unlike organs taken directly from donors, the recycled pancreata cells seemed to have a calming effect on the immune system, which made it far more likely that they wouldn’t be rejected. 

Decellularization itself is not a new concept, but these researchers are among the first to show the process could be used to create whole human organs.

"The early results are encouraging," lead author Giuseppe Orlando said in a press release. "We believe this research represents the first critical step toward a fully human-derived artificial pancreas."

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Citroën
These Funky Glasses Are Designed to Reduce Motion Sickness
Citroën
Citroën

There's nothing like a sudden wave of nausea to ruin a scenic road trip or a cruise. According to Visuall, the French car company Citroën has made a product that allows you to fight motion sickness without medication.

Their glass-less spectacles, called SEETROËN, implement technology first developed by the French startup Boarding Ring. Motion sickness occurs when the information we receive from our inner ear doesn't match up with what we see in front of us. SEETROËN tackles this problem in a simple way: Liquid at the bottom of all four rings (two in front of the eyes, two at the peripheries) responds to gravity and changes in movement the same way the fluid in your inner ear does. By having an "artificial horizon" to look at when you're in the back of a bumpy car, your visual senses should realign with your sense of balance, and you'll no longer feel queasy.

The accessory isn't exactly fashionable, unless maybe you're going for a space-age look, but you shouldn't worry about appearing goofy for too long. After staring at a still object like a book through the glasses for 10 to 12 minutes, you can remove them and continue to enjoy the benefits as you proceed with your trip, the company claims.

SEETROËN is currently out of stock at Citroën's lifestyle store, with the next shipment estimated for September. The company claims the spectacles show positive results 95 percent of the time, and the technology it uses won an INNOV'inMed award for health innovation. But like with any new technology meant to treat a medical condition, users should be cautious. Time-tested ways to prevent motion sickness include sitting in the front seat of a car, eating something light before you travel, and focusing your gaze on something outside the nearest window.

[h/t Visuall]

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iStock
5 Simple and Painless Ways to Remove a Splinter
iStock
iStock

Splinters are as sneaky as they are annoying. You never see one coming, but once one gets embedded in you, you’re definitely going to feel it. The most common way to pull one of these out of your body is to grab a pair of tweezers and just start digging. While that might work for splinters that haven't lodged too deep into your body, it’s far from ideal for the ones completely under the surface. Plus, it hurts.

Thankfully, you don’t always need sharp instruments or a trip to the doctor to get rid of those stubborn splinters—there are plenty of items lying around your house right now that can help draw them out. So the next time you find yourself with a painful piece of wood or other material stuck in your foot, finger, etc. be sure to wash the affected area with soap and warm water and give one of these simple—and painless—remedies a try.

1. SOAK IT IN EPSOM SALTS.

Epsom salts are an incredibly versatile cure-all for common ailments like sunburn and sore muscles. But one of its lesser known uses is the fact that it can help bring deep splinters to the surface of your skin.

To get this to work, just dissolve a cup of the salts into a warm bath and soak whatever part of the body has the splinter. Failing that, you can also put some of the salts onto a bandage pad and leave it covered for a day; this will eventually help bring the splinter to the surface. Both methods help to draw the splinter out, which you can then pull out completely with a tweezer.

2. SLAP A BANANA PEEL ON TOP OF IT.

They can do everything from whiten your teeth to shine your shoes, but banana peels can also rid you of your splinter woes. Simply take a portion of a ripe peel and tape the inside portion over the area with the splinter. From there, the enzymes in the peel will get to work by softening your skin and helping the splinter move closer to the surface.

Some say just a few minutes is often all it takes, but if you can leave it on longer (especially overnight), you’ll have a better chance that the splinter will surface. Sometimes it will be drawn out far enough that it will come out on its own when you remove the peel; other times you may still need to use a pair of tweezers to finish the job. And if it doesn’t work after one night, replace the peel and leave it on for another day.

Don’t have a banana handy? You can also try a potato slice using essentially the same method: Place the skinless side on the area, hold in place with a bandage, and leave it on overnight. Then remove it and see if the splinter has surfaced.

3. MAKE A BAKING SODA PASTE.

First, before you do anything, clean the affected area with soap and water. Then combine a little water with ¼ of a tablespoon of baking soda to make a paste that you can then spread on the splinter. Once the paste is spread, cover the area with a bandage and keep it just like that for a full 24 hours.

You should notice that the splinter has made its way to the surface, where you can now simply just remove it. If you still can't get a hold of it, you can repeat the same procedure until the splinter is sufficiently brought above the skin.

4. USE SOME TAPE.

This method is best when a splinter is already drawn to the surface a bit but tweezers just won’t do. Simply take a piece of tape—go for something a little stronger, like duct tape—and place it over the splinter. Once the tape is secure (leave it on for a few minutes), gently pull it off. You may have to repeat this a few times to coax the splinter out. For a little added security, soak the area in warm water first to soften the skin.

5. VINEGAR OR OIL.

Another simple way to draw out that stubborn splinter is to soak the affected area in oil (olive or corn) or white vinegar. Just pour some in a bowl and soak the area for around 20 to 30 minutes, then eyeball the splinter and see where it is. If it looks closer to the surface, but not enough to pull out, soak it longer. Once it gets far enough out, just remove it and wash the area with soap and water.

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