It has been said that truth is stranger than fiction. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the field of medicine, where various physiologic functions, structures, and even diseases can be unbelievably bizarre. MDLinx has rounded up just a few of these stranger-than-fiction medical facts for your reading pleasure.
Did you know that the children of identical twins are genetically siblings rather than cousins? This is because they share 25% of their DNA. Full siblings share 50% of their DNA, half-siblings share 25%, and cousins share 12.5%. Thus, they are the genetic equivalent of half-siblings.
Humans share 98.8% of their DNA with chimpanzees. But thankfully, despite this, the differences lie in how these genes are used. Because gene expression can be turned up or down— similar to the volume on your TV—the same gene can be turned to “high” in a human and “low” in a chimp. The human brain is larger and smarter than that of chimps and gorillas because, although we all have the same genes in the same brain region, these genes are expressed in different “volumes” or amounts. It is these differences that affect brain development and function.
Next time you run out of bandages, know that you could—but probably wouldn’t want to—reach for the cobwebs in your basement as an alternative. Cobwebs actually have natural antiseptic and anti-fungal properties and were used in ancient Greece and Rome by physicians to make bandages. In traditional European medicine as well, cobwebs were used on wounds and cuts. They supposedly speeded healing and reduced bleeding. Cobwebs are said to be rich in vitamin K, and thus may have antifibrinolytic properties.
Babies are born with about 300 bones, but by the time they reach adulthood, these bones will have fused together to form 206 bones. Babies are born with more cartilage than bone. With time, the cartilage is replaced by bone matrices, and the calcium salts babies get from their diets are laid to form hardened bone through a process known as endochondral ossification, or the conversion of cartilage into bone.
And speaking of bones, did you know that one-fourth of all of the bones in your body are in your feet—which are made up of 26 bones and 33 joints each—for a grand total of 52 bones in each foot? It’s strange that such a relatively small part of your body houses so many bones.
Having a good cry really is good for you. The tears you shed when you cry contain stress hormones, and crying itself may actually stimulate the production of endorphins—the body’s natural painkiller—as well as feel-good hormones such as oxytocin.
The human body has incredible regenerative powers. For example, your entire brain replaces itself every 2 months; your liver, every 6 weeks; and your epidermis, every 35 days. Even your stomach lining replaces itself every 3 to 4 days. If your body didn’t do this, the strong acids used by your stomach to digest food would also digest your stomach! And speaking of your stomach, did you know that your stomach acids are so strong that they can dissolve razor blades?
The human nose can remember 50,000 different scents. Experts say that the memories evoked by our sense of smell are some of the oldest and potent we have. Think of how you feel when you smell a flower that used to grow in your grandmother’s garden. Researchers have found that brain waves connect smells through memories via an associative process that links neural networks through synchronized brain waves of 20-40 Hz. The result? Smell is the strongest memory retainer.
The arteries of the blue whale—the largest living creature on earth—are so big that a full-sized human being could swim through them. Blue whales can grow to be over 100 ft long, and weigh over 100 tons. Because their hearts can weigh up to 1,300 lb—with aortas over 9 inches in diameter and a heart rate of 8-10 bpm—it’s no surprise that the arteries needed to transport blood from whale hearts to the rest of their bodies are large enough to swim laps in.
Did you know that the little blue pill (sildenafil [Viagra]) can also make cut flowers stand up straight? What is perhaps more amazing is that researchers actually studied this. They found that only 1 mg of the drug dissolved in water can double the life of cut flowers. As a result, making them stand up straight for up to 1 week longer than they usually would. The same held true when they tested sildenafil on strawberries, broccoli, and other produce.
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