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On the final day of June 2015, Colin LePage rode waves of hope and despair. It started when LePage found his 30-year-old son, Chris, at home after an apparent overdose. Paramedics rushed Chris by helicopter to one of Boston's flagship medical centers.

Doctors revived Chris' heart, but struggled to stabilize his temperature and blood pressure. At some point, a doctor or nurse mentioned to LePage that his son had agreed to be an organ donor.

"There was no urgency or, 'Hey, you need to do this.' I could see genuine concern and sadness." LePage says, his voice quavering.

Specially trained dogs have been known to sniff out explosives, drugs, missing persons and certain cancer cells, but author Alexandra Horowitz tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that extraordinary olfactory abilities aren't just the domain of working dogs.

Werner Shutz / Creative Commons

Marie Antoinette's breasts were believed to inspire the design of the shallow French champagne coupes we see on the shelves of the local Pottery Barn. Mae West noted in her 1959 memoir, Goodness Had Nothing To Do With It, that she regularly rubbed cocoa butter on her breasts and spritzed them with cold water.

Six years of your life. Or 2,190 days. That's about how long the average woman will spend having her periods.

For some women, that's too many days, too many periods.

More women in their 20s and 30s are choosing contraception that may suppress their menstrual cycles, says Dr. Elizabeth Micks, who runs an OB-GYN clinic at the University of Washington in Seattle. "In general, I think views are changing really rapidly," Micks says. "That need to have regular periods is not just in our society anymore."

Ugly Dolls / Flickr Creative Commons

What does it mean to say that someone, or something, is ugly? For a label that gets tossed around so often, its meaning is hard to pin down. Perhaps that's because, throughout history and around the world, our notions of ugliness have shifted considerably.

When a Connecticut woman who was HIV-positive died earlier this month, her family decided to donate her organs to others who needed them.

Doctors in Maryland announced Wednesday that they performed two landmark, successful surgeries with her kidney and liver — transplanting the organs to HIV-positive patients.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Heart disease is still the biggest killer in the United States, even though fewer people die from from heart attack and cardiac arrest than ever before.

Ugly Dolls / Flickr

What does it mean to say that someone, or something is ugly? For a label that gets tossed around so often, its meaning is hard to pin down. Perhaps that's because, throughout history and around the world, our notions of ugliness have shifted considerably.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

 A group of doctors, scientists, and engineers announced an ambitious new medical goal this week in Hartford: they'll attempt to re-generate a human knee and a human limb. 

Peter D / Creative Commons

It's not uncommon to see someone wearing a prosthesis, especially after wars in Iraq and Afghanistan sent many veterans home minus a limb. While losing a limb is a life-changing event, a good prosthetist can "carve" a prosthesis with just the right fit. It's a long process that can take years to perfect. 

Limbs today vary from simple body-powered prostheses moved by cables to a "fully robotic arm that has 26 joints, can curl 45 pounds and is controlled by the wearer's mind." As the stigma of a prosthesis lessens, amputees are seeking enhancement over replacement, opting for limbs that transcend what's biologically possible, even if lacking the aesthetic of a natural limb.

Eric Fischer/flickr creative commons

The congenial New York foot specialist Dr. Rock Positano is known nationally for helping patients avoid foot and ankle surgery. Which explains why he was featured on the front page of The New York Times expressing dismay at those women who choose cosmetic foot surgery to force their feet into high-end designer shoes. It happens regularly, says Positano, and then the same women seek his help to repair the damage done. "Sadly, I can't do a thing for them," he says. "It's too late."

The Science of Snake Oil

Apr 22, 2015
Dave Baker / Flickr Creative Commons

We like to think of health care as an exact science: established guidelines, uniform practices, rigorously tested treatments vetted through extensive lab trials. Unfortunately this was neither the case  in the early days of medicine, nor is it the case today. It's shame that nearly 2500 years after the writing of Hippocrates' famous oath we'd still be wrestling with the ethics of best practice.

c-hit.org

New research out of Yale says doctors should accept more types of kidneys for organ transplant. The study comes at a time when there's a growing need for kidneys.

It might seem silly to miss work for a rash. But people who have eczema often have to put a lot of time and money into managing the itchy, inflamed rashes they get over and over. Lindsay Jones, who lives in Chicago, was diagnosed with eczema when she was 2 weeks old.

Josh/flickr creative commons

The congenial New York foot specialist Dr. Rock Positano is known nationally for helping patients avoid foot and ankle surgery. Which explains why he was featured on the front page of The New York Times expressing dismay at those women who choose cosmetic foot surgery to force their feet into high-end designer shoes. It happens regularly, says Positano, and then the same women seek his help to repair the damage done. "Sadly, I can't do a thing for them," he says. "It's too late."

Josh/flickr creative commons

The congenial New York foot specialist Dr. Rock Positano is known nationally for helping patients avoid foot and ankle surgery. Which explains why he was featured on the front page of The New York Times expressing dismay at those women who choose cosmetic foot surgery to force their feet into high-end designer shoes. It happens regularly, says Positano, and then the same women seek his help to repair the damage done. "Sadly, I can't do a thing for them," he says. "It's too late."

Garrett Peterson was born in 2012 with a defective windpipe. It would periodically just collapse, because the cartilage was so soft, and he'd stop breathing. This would happen every day — sometimes multiple times a day.

"It was really awful to have to watch him go through his episodes," says his father, Jake Peterson of Layton, Utah. "He'd be fine and then all of a sudden start turning blue. It was just like watching your child suffocate over and over again."

Preserved human parts — including an infant's head, a baby's foot and an adult heart — stolen from a medical museum in Thailand last month were discovered over the weekend in three boxes labeled as toys that were being shipped to Las Vegas.

Workers at DHL discovered five body parts when they X-rayed the boxes, then alerted the Thai police. They identified the man who shipped the boxes as Ryan McPherson, a 31-year-old American tourist, and questioned him and another American, Daniel Tanner, 33, about the packages.

Learning to name the colors is a ritual of childhood. At first kids have no clue; often they'll just say everything is "boo." Pretty soon, though, they can rattle off Roy G. Biv with aplomb. Still, that doesn't mean they understand what color actually is.

Mark Fairchild, who studies color and vision science at the Rochester Institute of Technology, says that even physicists get it wrong when they confidently assert that color is just a wavelength of light.

Scientists are reporting the first strong evidence that human embryonic stem cells may be helping patients.

The cells appear to have improved the vision in more than half of the 18 patients who had become legally blind because of two progressive, currently incurable eye diseases.

The researchers stress that the findings must be considered preliminary because the number of patients treated was relatively small and they have only been followed for an average of less than two years.

Huntstock / Thinkstock

Researchers in New York are taking a closer look at endometriosis. It's a disease that's not often talked about, but it affects one in ten women in the U.S., and 176 million women worldwide.

When doctors rush a lung to a hospital for a transplant, the precious cargo arrives in the operating room in a container that seems more appropriate for Bud Light — a cooler filled with ice.

Ten years ago Dennis Sorensen was setting off fireworks to celebrate New Year's Eve with his family in Denmark when something terrible happened.

"Unfortunately one of the rockets we had this evening was not good and when we light it then it just blew up and, yeah, my hand was, was not that good anymore," says Sorensen.

Close your eyes and imagine the last time you fell in love. Maybe you were walking next to your sweetheart in a park or staring into each other's eyes over a latte.

Where did you feel the love? Perhaps you got butterflies in your stomach or your heart raced with excitement.

When a team of scientists in Finland asked people to map out where they felt different emotions on their bodies, they found that the results were surprisingly consistent, even across cultures.

Anthropologist Lynne Isbell was running through a glade in central Kenya in 1992 when something suddenly caused her to freeze in her tracks. "I stopped just in front of a cobra," she says. "It was raised with its hood spread out."

Isbell, who is at the University of California, Davis, says she has spent the past couple of decades trying to understand how she could have reacted before her conscious brain even had a chance to think — cobra!

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