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Major New Function Discovered For the Spleen

kdawson posted about 5 years ago | from the more-than-just-a-metaphor dept.

Medicine 257

circletimessquare writes "The spleen doesn't get much respect — as one researcher put it, 'the spleen lacks the gravitas of neighboring organs.' Those undergoing a splenectomy seem to be able to carry on without any consequences. However, some studies have suggested an enhanced risk of early death for those who have undergone splenectomies. Now researchers have discovered why: the spleen apparently serves as a vast reservoir for monocytes, the largest of the white blood cells, the wrecking crew of the immune system. After major trauma, such as a heart attack, the monocytes are disgorged into the blood stream and immediately get to work repairing the damage. '"The parallel in military terms is a standing army," said Matthias Nahrendorf, an author of the report. "You don't want to have to recruit an entire fighting force from the ground up every time you need it."'"

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First Post (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28947441)

So how long are their deployments?

-US Army soldier.

Re:First Post (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28947789)

So how long are their deployments?

-US Army soldier.

Not very long but after 4 or 5 heart attacks the spleen has a much higher chance of committing suicide.

Re:First Post (4, Funny)

ArsonSmith (13997) | about 5 years ago | (#28948379)

You fight disease with the spleen you have. Not the spleen you want.

How could the miss that? (5, Interesting)

13bPower (869223) | about 5 years ago | (#28947443)

How could they miss that? I'm sure someone cut open a spleen before and looked at it through a microscope. Wouldn't you see an unusually high concentration of the monocytes?

Re:How could the miss that? (1)

JCSoRocks (1142053) | about 5 years ago | (#28947525)

It's no different than the appendix. Apparently, unless its function is obvious, we're not too good at figuring these things out.

Re:How could the miss that? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28947561)

Both are the sorts of organs we needed a long time ago, when infections and food poisoning would have been everyday occurrences, but not so much anymore. So it's no surprise that their functions aren't that obvious.

Re:How could the miss that? (2, Interesting)

hedwards (940851) | about 5 years ago | (#28948145)

Not really, it's only in a relatively small part of the world where the appendix isn't that useful. Curiously, that's the developed world where there's also relatively easy access to apendectomies. But by population, the vast majority of people still need and use it. And even in the developed world, people do use it, it's just not as important with the easy access to probiotics.

Re:How could the miss that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28948157)

I thought the appendix also stored good bacteria, so that after you wipe all yours out with antibiotics, it can replenish some of the stuff you need?

Re:How could the miss that? (1)

ground.zero.612 (1563557) | about 5 years ago | (#28947781)

I remember reading recently that the Appendix kick starts beneficial bacterial growth in the digestive track. I just can't remember the details nor the source zine.

Re:How could the miss that? (3, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | about 5 years ago | (#28947831)

If you persist with your LIES, you will be hearing from our lawyers.

Yours sincerely,
Yakult Honsha Co. Ltd

Re:How could the miss that? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28947989)

What a complete waste of a perfectly good post. I guess you cook twice the food you need too, so you can throw out half of it.

Re:How could the miss that? (1)

spectro (80839) | about 5 years ago | (#28948335)

Chronic fatigue?, brain fog?

You probably got your appendix removed years ago, got antibiotics and eat a high carb diet... recipe for Candida overgrowth. It sucks and takes a while to get back in control.

Without appendix there is no way to repopulate your intestinal bacteria to its natural levels so Candida (also naturally living there) grows out of control.

Re:How could the miss that? (1)

Freeside1 (1140901) | about 5 years ago | (#28947799)

Obviously, the appendix is a useful place for storing things like paperclips, fingernail clippings, and loose tooth fillings

Re:How could the miss that? (4, Funny)

severoon (536737) | about 5 years ago | (#28948177)

So...you're saying it was a bad idea to get all the organs I didn't understand removed, then? Uh oh...

Re:How could the miss that? (2, Interesting)

blahplusplus (757119) | about 5 years ago | (#28947555)

"How could they miss that?"

Biologies obsession with vestigal organs:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vermiform_appendix#Vestigiality [wikipedia.org]

Early evolution theorists figured the body would have a lot of "vestigal" organs that did nothing, the same goes for junk dna

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junk_dna [wikipedia.org]

Re:How could the miss that? (3, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about 5 years ago | (#28948205)

The obsession, is relatively reasonable. What isn't reasonable is the tendency to relegate still useful things into that category.

The ability to wiggle ones ears is a pretty good example, unless you can do it, you'd never appreciate the help that is in figuring out where sounds are coming from. Sure it's not as useful as it was. Well, scratch that, with all the randomly beeping things we have in the modern era it helps one figure out where they are hiding.

No such thing as a Vestigial Organ. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28947617)

It's about time that the earlier nazi/inquisition-style police-state presumptions are finally being burnt at the stake for making such dire assertions that there is such thing as a Vestigial Organ. Given that the spleenectomy procedure has noticibly only resulted in shorter life-span later in the trials of the host that endured, this would prove that such low-impact performances are indirectly proportionate to the life-expectancy of a man to be well over 120 years and perhaps upwards of the Holy Bible impelling 700 Years or more.

I believe it was Kent Hovind that provided much similar hash of colourable information concerning the better Origin of species and the standing man holds, citable in YouTube repositories that criticize him most nonetheless. And yet, here we see another good man being persecuted by unfathomable political bonds of jealousy in earning his living among the excess and smacked into prison for "structuring" his alleged liability for "income tax" despite there being no such court accusation referencable for lack of a trust relationship to that federal corporation agent to UNITED STATES (Title 28, 3002, 15(a)).

Re:No such thing as a Vestigial Organ. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28947715)

i find your ideas intriguing and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:How could the miss that? (0, Offtopic)

spydabyte (1032538) | about 5 years ago | (#28947697)

No, despite popular belief from sci-fi films and tv shows, you cannot just cut something open and look at it with the human eye or any amount of visual enhancements to get an understanding of a complex system such as the human body.

Re:How could the miss that? (2, Insightful)

R.Mo_Robert (737913) | about 5 years ago | (#28947959)

But this doesn't explain why the spleen was so difficult: what would I see if I looked at a slide of spleen under the microscope (or if more advanced equipment than my eye and a microscope did the same thing)? If not a noticeably larger proportion of white blood cells than elsewhere, why not (e.g., did preparation destroy them, are the hidden or stored elsewhere, etc.)?

Clearly, something must have been going on for us not to have realized this sooner. (Or, perhaps, we've discovered only part of the story--it's happened a lot over history and still happens today, as much as we like to pride ourselves with our knowledge and technology.)

Re:How could the miss that? (2, Informative)

Inda (580031) | about 5 years ago | (#28948007)

Yeah but they're talking about blood cells here. I've had my white cells counted under a microscope, so I know it can be done.

Re:How could the miss that? (4, Informative)

kheldan (1460303) | about 5 years ago | (#28948363)

In the grand view of things, medical science is still in it's infancy, even if it's late infancy; there are still more things that are NOT understood than that ARE understood. From my layman's perspective it seems to me like trying to work on an automobile's engine while it's running, but unlike that engine, if you shut down and dismantle the human engine, you can't just put it back together again, pour gas and oil in it, and expect it to run ever again. It seems that since we have developed better and better imaging technologies this situation has begun to improve, but I think it'll take even bigger leaps in that technology before we can really start getting a handle on "the basics".

so just do like europe does then... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28947449)

...when there's trouble you call the US. Or get a monocyte injection.

Re:so just do like europe does then... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28947501)

yeah, thanks for waiting until 1941....

Makes Sense (1)

S7urm (126547) | about 5 years ago | (#28947465)

Anyone ever wonder why the human body seems to have organs that we don't "need". I wonder if studies had ever been done to correlate any other "useless" organs, to early death/higher risk of disease.

You can lose a kidney, gall bladder, tonsils, etc. and they MUST have either had a use at one point or are meant for a very specific, yet seldom used task, i.e the Spleen being a repository for big white blood cells

This is quite interesting!

Re:Makes Sense (1)

schon (31600) | about 5 years ago | (#28947499)

You can lose a kidney [...] and they MUST have either had a use at one point or are meant for a very specific, yet seldom used task

Umm, I'm thinking you need to drink more fluids.

Re:Makes Sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28947569)

he should add 'brain' to the list, no one needs that anymore.

Re:Makes Sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28948187)

omg lol me 2

Re:Makes Sense (1)

goltzc (1284524) | about 5 years ago | (#28947595)

From an evolutionary perspective its easier to leave no longer needed biological features in tact than it is to completely remove them. That is why creatures like snakes and whales have small remnants of legs.

Re:Makes Sense (1)

schon (31600) | about 5 years ago | (#28947725)

From an evolutionary perspective its easier to leave no longer needed biological features in tact than it is to completely remove them.

And what does that have to do with the kidney? Are you also suggesting that kidneys are "no longer needed"?

Re:Makes Sense (1)

PotatoFarmer (1250696) | about 5 years ago | (#28947747)

If those small remnants of legs impacted reproductive fitness, you can bet they'd be gone. It's not a question of easier or harder to keep vestigial elements, it's a question of whether or not those elements affect the organism's ability to reproduce in relation to its competition.

Re:Makes Sense (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about 5 years ago | (#28948035)

it can also be that an unrelated 'positive' adaptation kept them in the gene pool. If they have a negative effect on reproduction/survival they will disappear, but if there's a competing positive effect it can override the negative emphasis.

Re:Makes Sense (1)

maxume (22995) | about 5 years ago | (#28947825)

You have two kidneys because they are very necessary and prone to failure.

Re:Makes Sense (2, Interesting)

S7urm (126547) | about 5 years ago | (#28947921)

I understand that, my point is that our bodies have some tendency to have organs perform functions that in today's world are overkill, i.e the fact that you can survive with only ONE kidney.

I wasn't implying I didn't understand their function, or that I thought I could EASILY live without one of my kidneys, however I was commenting on how I find it interesting, that due in large part to modern medicine, and our diets, we can function, in some cases thrive, while missing entire ORGANS, I think that is "neat" and also makes me curious on how contaminated things like our blood and urine must have been to require 2 kidneys and other "non-essential" organs

Re:Makes Sense (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 5 years ago | (#28948115)

or that I thought I could EASILY live without one of my kidneys

You can live pretty easily without one of your kidneys, as long as the other one is working fine. But therein lies the rub...

how contaminated things like our blood and urine must have been to require 2 kidneys and other "non-essential" organs

Not necessarily any more. But since you'll die quickly if you have no working kidneys, and they are prone to failure, it made evolutionary "sense" to have a backup.

Re:Makes Sense (1)

shentino (1139071) | about 5 years ago | (#28948365)

Having two kidneys is the biological version of RAID 1

Re:Makes Sense (4, Informative)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 5 years ago | (#28947883)

You can lose a kidney, gall bladder, tonsils, etc. and they MUST have either had a use at one point or are meant for a very specific, yet seldom used task, i.e the Spleen being a repository for big white blood cells

Uh as pointed out kidneys have a rather important, crucial, and well-known use. The reason you can lose one is because the function the kidneys provide is so important that you evolved two so you have a backup.

The gall bladder does not provide a crucial function so it can be removed but this is not without consequence. Especially before your digestive system adjusts, you will have some quite noticeable side effects. Read: You don't want to be very far from a bathroom.

Tonsils are part of the lymphatic system. You can afford to lose them, but you are more likely to get upper respiratory infections.

These have all been known for a long time.

A better example of something thought to be useless which turned out not to be would be the appendix, which was thought to be a holdover from our purely herbivorous ancestors. But then recently they discovered it had another use -- as a reserve pocket of digestive bacteria that can be used to "reboot" the digestive system if something wipes out the microbes in the intestines.

Re:Makes Sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28948147)

I didn't know that extra bit about the appendix. That's pretty cool. I wonder if there are any people who are born without appendices, like those people who are missing some or all of their wisdom teeth, or if this secondary appendix use is beneficial enough to make that an unlikely adaptation.

Re:Makes Sense (1)

nonsequitor (893813) | about 5 years ago | (#28947919)

Kidney's are redundant and vital, you cannot lose both and still live unassisted.
The Gall Bladder is the liver's side kick. It's a bile reservoir, the liver produces bile, and if you lose it, you'll have no fun eating for a while since your liver needs time to adjust to producing more bile.
The tonsils are part of the lymphatic system of the body, and if you lose them, the body can make do.

Lymph nodes are found all through the body, and act as filters or traps for foreign particles. They contain white blood cells that use oxygen to process. Thus they are important in the proper functioning of the immune system.

(from Wikipedia)
The only vestigal organ I can think of is the appendix, now that the spleen has had its purpose explained more fully.

Re:Makes Sense (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 5 years ago | (#28948259)

Technically speaking, the appendix isn't vestigial, it's whole purpose is to be teeming with bacteria. Basically a safe guard to make it less likely that you die should your intestines be depopulated of bacteria. Which is also why appendicitis is one of the few things that's significantly less common in the developing world than the developed world.

Re:Makes Sense (4, Informative)

Fallen Kell (165468) | about 5 years ago | (#28948047)

You can lose "a" kidney because you have 2. If you lose both, you are dead... We have two because without one we are dead, and they are in a fairly unprotected part of the human body, so our ancestors/predictors who developed two tended to survive to procreate better then the ones without two.

The tonsils are part of the lymphatic system and also help our immune system (like the spleen) mainly by being the mechanism where the ducts for our immune system to access the upper repritory system (i.e. mouth, throat). You can "live" without tosils, but you are more prone to respritory infections, which is manageable in this post-penicillin medical world.

The gall bladder is actually something that is very important to the digestive system. It isn't a "vital" organ (again, meaning you can live without it), but fatty foods will possibly not be handled properly by the body. The gall bladder stores up and concentrates the bile (produced in your kidneys) and regulates when to release it into the digestive tract properly. Without the gall bladder, the kidneys are directly releasing the gall into the tract whenever the kidney produces it. The trigger to produce bile is fat in the blood stream, which happens by absorption in the digestive tract as well as from other sources as well. One possible major drawback to not having a gall bladder is that you might be running to the closest bathroom almost immediately after eating a meal which contained lots of fats because your kidney just dumped a ton of bile into your digestive tract and you have automatic diarrhea from that much gall.

Re:Makes Sense (1)

Fallen Kell (165468) | about 5 years ago | (#28948119)

Sorry, in my gall bladder paragraph, I meant to say liver, not kidney as to where the bile is produced. I still had kidneys on my mind from earlier in the post.

Re:Makes Sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28948073)

You can add foreskin to that list.

IAAMS (5, Interesting)

xanthines-R-yummy (635710) | about 5 years ago | (#28948239)

I Am A Medical Student...

You need all of the things you listed to live a normal life. Sure, you can SURVIVE without those organs but medicine/science have known for quite awhile now that losing your spleen makes you vulnerable to infections, which is why you typically get vaccines galore before removing it (vaccines aren't a replacement for spleens, btw; it's better than nothing!). I think anyone's who's had their gall bladder removed will tell you they wish they had a functioning one. It helps make your stool a lot more pleasant! While you can live quite awhile with only one kidney, there's evidence out there that kidney donors may have shortened lifespans. Your tonsils are lymph nodes which house immune cells.

By your reasoning, it doesn't appear we need 5 fingers on each hand. We can surely survive with 4, 3, or even none. For that matter, might as well get rid of that pesky arm!

There's a difference between being necessary for life, and being really really REALLY useful.

/I kind of forgot what I was typing about.
//Going to bed...
///I dream of slashies

What we don't know (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 5 years ago | (#28947469)

Somehow, I always find it amazing the things we don't know about. We know the makeup of the universe down to a couple of percentage points. We know what subatomic particles do what, and have theories to predict other ones that have virtually no effect on our universe. We know when the sun is going to run out of fuel and have pretty accurate theories about what will happen to the solar system when that happens.

Yet, somehow, we don't know the basic workings of our own bodies.

Re:What we don't know (3, Funny)

T Murphy (1054674) | about 5 years ago | (#28947553)

Yet, somehow, we don't know the basic workings of our own bodies.

Proof that God is male- he ignores the concept of an instruction manual.

Re:What we don't know (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 5 years ago | (#28947941)

There's a MANUAL?

Re:What we don't know (1)

Burning1 (204959) | about 5 years ago | (#28948417)

Proof that god is a project manager. He wants us to develop instructions, but doesn't give us access to any engineering resources.

Re:What we don't know (4, Insightful)

rho (6063) | about 5 years ago | (#28947597)

Little advertised fact about science is nearly everything should be appended with "... according to current models," but isn't. Because then it sounds like scientists don't know anything. Which they do know something, at least according to current models, but the truth is complicated and sells poorly.

Unfortunately, not enough scientists on the TV are this honest. Or they're not allowed to be. Whichever, it makes them look like chumps when they assuredly aren't.

Re:What we don't know (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28947601)

Somehow, I always find it amazing the things we don't know about. We think we know the makeup of the universe down to a couple of percentage points. We think we know what subatomic particles do what, and have theories to predict other ones that have theoretically virtually no effect on our universe. We think know when the sun is going to run out of fuel and have theoretically pretty accurate theories about what will happen to the solar system when that happens.

Yet, somehow, we don't know the basic workings of our own bodies.

Pardon the triteness, but "FTFY". We have no perception of anything on a cosmic scale, and we learn new information about what we think are the simplest things all the time.

Re:What we don't know (2, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | about 5 years ago | (#28947717)

Somehow, I always find it amazing the things we don't know about. We know the makeup of the universe down to a couple of percentage points. We know what subatomic particles do what, and have theories to predict other ones that have virtually no effect on our universe. We know when the sun is going to run out of fuel and have pretty accurate theories about what will happen to the solar system when that happens.

Yet, somehow, we don't know the basic workings of our own bodies.

At first blush I'd want to question our supposed knowledge of those other heady areas of knowledge. Of course, that's not entirely the case. I'm partial to the book a Short History of Nearly Everything [wikipedia.org] . If nothing else, it will help you appreciate how we came by certain bits of knowledge while missing other things.

Re:What we don't know (0)

steelfood (895457) | about 5 years ago | (#28947767)

What we know are generalities. We know the Earth revolves around the sun and the moon revolves around the Earth via a mechanism called "gravity." Our knowledge of specifics is incomplete, to unstate the matter. We don't know what "gravity" actually is.

This is a good example of why, when people scoff at alternative medicine as junk because there's no scientific proof, I can only think that they are short-sighted and closed-minded. Certainly, there's a lot of mystical fluff, and it's generally less reliable than scientific medicine (but it's equally as reliable in the hands of a skilled practitioner). But there's a whole body of real, actual knowledge that's being marginalized, and for what? Ignorance. Instead of saying, "we don't know how it works, but we accept that there's something behind it," people say, "we don't know how it works, so it must not work."

I apologize for ranting, but it always bothers me when certain knowledge is hailed as being "new" and a "discovery" or "breakthrough" when it's been around for centuries, just not in the accepted, scientific form.

Re:What we don't know (1, Troll)

sakdoctor (1087155) | about 5 years ago | (#28947913)

Scientific method [wikipedia.org] . You've completely failed to understand it.

Now GTFO.

Re:What we don't know (2, Insightful)

Fallen Seraph (808728) | about 5 years ago | (#28948151)

What we know are generalities. We know the Earth revolves around the sun and the moon revolves around the Earth via a mechanism called "gravity." Our knowledge of specifics is incomplete, to unstate the matter. We don't know what "gravity" actually is.

Ummm, yeah, we kinda do. That's what General Relativity is all about, actually. Gravity is a product of the geometry of the universe (or more specifically, space-time) distorting around the presence of mass. This distortion can also occur in the presence of radiation and energy, due to mass-energy equivalency, as well as distorting due to linear momentum as well. It's really a remarkably elegant theory in my opinion, and it works fairly well, though we do encounter problems on the sub-atomic level, but that's why the unification of quantum mechanics and general relativity is such a lofty goal. It'd give us a model of the universe from the smallest components of matter, to the shape of the universe itself. Just because you don't understand, or bother to research something, doesn't make it an unknown. That being said, this is the working model for our concept of gravity. We may find it incomplete in the future, but it's held up remarkably well to experimental evidence thus far, despite many of it's predictions being counter-intuitive. So we know much more than "a few details" but we're not certain yet, because we're still learning

This is a good example of why, when people scoff at alternative medicine as junk because there's no scientific proof, I can only think that they are short-sighted and closed-minded. Certainly, there's a lot of mystical fluff, and it's generally less reliable than scientific medicine (but it's equally as reliable in the hands of a skilled practitioner).

I have to stop you there. No, no it is not. The VAST majority of alternative doctors are swindlers and con-artists, or simply ignorant. Alternative medicines are also commonly psychosomatic, which is where many of the claims of "It works!" originate from. That being said, many modern medicines come from nature, and if the FDA wasn't worthless, they'd regulate the supplement and alternative medicine markets, instead of failing to even regulate just the pharmaceutical market. The problem with alternative medicines though is when people turn down medical care or treatment in favor of alternatives. This can get people killed, or exacerbate their conditions.

Re:What we don't know (1)

Sannish (803665) | about 5 years ago | (#28947901)

Yet, somehow, we don't know the basic workings of our own bodies.

Part of the problem is that it is very hard to do systematic tests on people the same way it is done in the other branches of science. Slightly adjusting an experiment that involves semi-conductor impurities is easier then having someone's spleen removed (or added) bit by bit to examine the effects.

Re:What we don't know (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | about 5 years ago | (#28948077)

Because frankly, the human body is a way more complex system than the sun. And we can predict one, two, or *mayybe* three elementary particles. But then it becomes next to impossible.
Our bodies in all its functions, are insanely complex. As complex as a continent perhaps. Or at least as a city. (If you know how to translate the complexity.)

Also, you always have to watch where the money is in. It's certainly not as much in healing people as in selling lies in pill form.

Re:What we don't know (1)

cshay (79326) | about 5 years ago | (#28948129)

Its because the human organism is designed as if it were software coded with a billion tiny hacks done in self modifying code, layered year upon year by piss poor code monkeys from India. If the human is still able to keep living and replicating despite the hacks, the hack is pronounced a success, and the next software release cycle is begun. Sometimes unforseen coincidences cause the code to crash, and the human to die, and some times they lead to big jumps in human capabilities. But most of the time, the hack does nothing excecpt for add one more layer of obfuscation about how the whole system really works.

Considering how random and crazy the "design" is, being simply a product of random GOTOs, forks, etc, with the only requirement being that it pass the test of selective evolution pressures over eons, it's not suprising whatsoever that it is difficult to understand this design...

Re:What we don't know (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 5 years ago | (#28948167)

Yet, somehow, we don't know the basic workings of our own bodies.

If we didn't already know quite a bit about the basic workings of our own bodies, we wouldn't have been able to make the discovery discussed in TFA.

Be careful not to confuse "we don't know everything," which is clearly true, with "we don't know anything," which is a favorite propaganda technique of anti-science fanatics (and usually followed up with "... except for what my personal fairy tale tells us, which of course Explains Everything.")

HIV/AIDS (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 5 years ago | (#28947489)

So what happens when someone has AIDS?

Are those monocytes sitting around doing nothing? Are they depleted? Something else?

Re:HIV/AIDS (2, Informative)

Kligat (1244968) | about 5 years ago | (#28947573)

AIDS is like a zombie virus, but for white blood cells, DoofusOfDeath. Unlike most viruses, it doesn't spread when the white blood cell explodes. The zombie white blood cell piles onto the healthy one and turns it into another of the infected. For more information, please direct the creators of Osmosis Jones [wikipedia.org] to create an R-rated sequel.

No problem. (5, Funny)

T Murphy (1054674) | about 5 years ago | (#28947493)

However, some studies have suggested an enhanced risk of early death for those who have undergone splenectomies

I don't see how this is a problem. This is a new discovery- those old spleens didn't have this functionality yet.

Re:No problem. (2, Insightful)

napalmfires (946900) | about 5 years ago | (#28947875)

what idiot modded this insightful? it's a joke!

Re:No problem. (2, Interesting)

oneirophrenos (1500619) | about 5 years ago | (#28948061)

what idiot modded this insightful? it's a joke!

Modding jokes insightful is a subtle way for the mods to reward the poster of a clever joke with karma.

Re:No problem. (1)

inamorty (1227366) | about 5 years ago | (#28948289)

Either an idiot with a mod point affliction or, more likely, one with an urge to share karma.

Re:No problem. (1)

spydabyte (1032538) | about 5 years ago | (#28947933)

However, some studies have suggested an enhanced risk of early death for those who have undergone splenectomies

No, it's the possibility of some tests that think this may lead to a slightly larger possibility of DEATH to a very small percentage of the human population. Very concrete facts. This is a major problem. A matter of national security.

There's somthing fishy (2, Interesting)

xant (99438) | about 5 years ago | (#28947957)

I knew there was something fishy about the logic used in the summary. Could we not conclude that unhealthy spleens are a symptom of an overall attribute of unhealthiness for that person? The fact that they die early doesn't tell you very much about the spleen's role in the death. By analogy:

"However, some studies have suggested an enhanced risk of early death for those who have undergone bulletectomies after being shot with a bullet."

You would not draw from this statement the conclusion that bullets were somehow important for life. :-) Not that I disbelieve the rest of the findings, but I think this is probably another gross oversimplification about the reason why we were studying spleens.

Splenectomy Patients (5, Funny)

sp1nl0ck (241836) | about 5 years ago | (#28947537)

My Dad had his spleen removed when he was a kid, and a number of years ago (10) was told he had to carry a card around with him that said something like

"I have had my spleen removed and may be subject to overwhelming infection."

Seriously. We told him he shouldn't use that as his opening gambit when talking to girls :-)

Re:Splenectomy Patients (2, Funny)

Em Emalb (452530) | about 5 years ago | (#28947605)

Change two letters in that sentence and he might get some play:

"I have had my spleen removed and may be subject to overwhelming affection."

C'mon, that's ancient Pimp right there.

(Or just really really cheesy and creepy, I haven't figured it out yet.)

Re:Splenectomy Patients (1)

Tynin (634655) | about 5 years ago | (#28947679)

Exactly, my sister-in-law had her spleen removed when she was 9 as it was enlarging itself beyond the ability for her body to continue to house it. One of the first things they told the family was that she would be more likely to suffer from infections. Perhaps I am not understanding the meaning of this "major new function" as it seemed like we already understood this. Can anyone clear this up?

Re:Splenectomy Patients (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 5 years ago | (#28948333)

Well for one thing, you don't have to know what a spleen does to notice a statistical increase in serious complications from infection. Yeah, yeah, correlation... causation, but the principle of erring on the side of caution frequently comes into play in medicine.

Re:Splenectomy Patients (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28947987)

My father had his spleen removed just before radiation therapy to treat Hodgekin's Disease. He died a few years later after a heart attack, but it wasn't really the heart attack that killed him.

At the time of the attack, he had a throat infection that just wouln't go away. The ER doctors intubated him, and this pushed the infection down into his lungs (or at least down his trachea and much closer to his lungs). His body was unable to fight off the lung infection, and this is what actually killed him.

Not data, just another anecdote.

Re:Splenectomy Patients (1)

Choad Namath (907723) | about 5 years ago | (#28948017)

I had my spleen removed 10 years ago, but I was just told to get yearly flu shots and to get a pneumonia shot every 5 years.

Awesome... (1)

Em Emalb (452530) | about 5 years ago | (#28947563)

I knew it! The spleen is the home of Ninjas. That's why you never see a Ninja...they live in your spleen.

i would imagine why the spleen seems useless (4, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 5 years ago | (#28947599)

is because in modern life, we just don't get beat up that much

that is, early, more primitive man was probably getting the shit kicked out of him a lot, from the environment, and other humans. such that you needed a repository of monocytes at the ready for immediate damage repair a lot more often, as a survival advantage

civilized more sedentary life, meanwhile, with all of the medical support that affords, means we could not easily see why removing the spleen had any jeopardy attached to it

we can survive just fine, even without this organic built-in trauma preparedness kit, as long as we have trauma inpatient units at the hospital close by

Re:i would imagine why the spleen seems useless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28948075)

So if you're not invading countries, you don't really need a standing army? Sounds like heresy...

And in Related News.. (4, Informative)

AtomicSnarl (549626) | about 5 years ago | (#28947609)

Lovely! This goes along with a recent discovery that the Appendix serves as reservoir for the gastrointestinal system's supply of friendly microbes which help digest our food.

No news yet on earlobes.

Re:And in Related News.. (5, Funny)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | about 5 years ago | (#28947669)

Earlobes serve as a reservoir for gems and precious metals, in case of emergency financial distress.

Venting your spleen (1)

MosesJones (55544) | about 5 years ago | (#28947629)

Now becomes a positive phrase aimed at solving your problems

"Had a really tough problem today but I vented my spleen and just worked it out"

Raise an army ab initio for every war? (0, Offtopic)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 5 years ago | (#28947641)

"The parallel in military terms is a standing army," said Matthias Nahrendorf, an author of the report. "You don't want to have to recruit an entire fighting force from the ground up every time you need it."

One of the first thing the US Government did after defeating England in the Revolutionary War is to dismantle and demobilize the army. Curiously most Americans today who support strict and original interpretation of the constitution are also enthusiastic support of military adventurism. Just saying.

Male Nipples... (1)

swanzilla (1458281) | about 5 years ago | (#28947667)

...maybe they'll figure these things out next.

Re:Male Nipples... (1)

KermodeBear (738243) | about 5 years ago | (#28948049)

They're for male lactation [wikipedia.org] .

Center of the Immune System (3, Interesting)

lobiusmoop (305328) | about 5 years ago | (#28947689)

Funny, I always believed that the spleen was the center of the immune system. I got lymphoma (the AIDS of cancers) ten years ago, and I gave thanks that it was caught early enough that I didn't need to have my spleen removed, only a tumorous lymph node in my neck, followed by some radiotherapy.

Re:Center of the Immune System (1)

93,000 (150453) | about 5 years ago | (#28947863)

My father had his spleen removed around 20 years ago due to cancer. The spleen itself didn't have cancer, but they took it out as a precaution. He died of complications from heart disease this year at age 65. It's only one instance, of course, but it supports what I've read about this so far.

Glad you got to keep yours.. :)

Re:Center of the Immune System (1)

JayAitch (1277640) | about 5 years ago | (#28948009)

Good for you that you beat it early. Just curious what led to you getting checked out in the first place to find it early.

Re:Center of the Immune System (3, Interesting)

lobiusmoop (305328) | about 5 years ago | (#28948375)

It was the classic 'Oh shit, I've found a lump' moment. Actually it was 2 lumps, one in my neck, which I foolishly ignored for a month, then a lump in my armpit, on the same side, which combined with a bad night-sweat (waking up to soaked sheets at 4am) got the alarm bells going. (These are classic Hodgkins Lymphoma signs, it turns out).
  The nasty thing about Hodgkins is that it is most prevalent in men in their mid 20's, just the age when you are least expecting out-of-the-blue health problems usually. It's pretty rare though at least, which is something. Plus I'm in the UK, free healthcare for all via the NHS, which encourages getting things checked out anyway I think.

Wow (1)

RichardJenkins (1362463) | about 5 years ago | (#28947721)

Of all the grand phenomenon we've discovered, evolution's got to be the most incredible thing ever realised by man.

And to think - enough of the basics to build a simple model for transforming self replicating chemicals into to this elegance are within reach of simple lay-folks like me.

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28947801)

Keep it in your pants!

(And no, we are not interested in thinking about it, thank you very much!)

Re:Wow (1)

JerRocks (885412) | about 5 years ago | (#28948003)

I don't understand what this have to do with World of Warcraft?

Isn't it spleendiferous... (1)

thewiz (24994) | about 5 years ago | (#28947787)

that we're learning more about the human body everyday!

That sucks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28947905)

For all those people who got splenectomies just because they said it has no function... I told you so.

I don't know about y'all, but (1)

JAZ (13084) | about 5 years ago | (#28947947)

My spleen just doesn't matter
Don't really care about my bladder
But I don't leave home without
My pancreas

New? (1)

AP31R0N (723649) | about 5 years ago | (#28948019)

Did it just start doing this? That seems unlikely.

Surgery (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 5 years ago | (#28948053)

Wouldn't any sugery increase the likelihood of an early death, especially one in which the body cavity is opened and something rather large is removed?

Re:Surgery (1)

elrs3 (1438793) | about 5 years ago | (#28948303)

I would think in most cases you would suffer an earlier even death by *not* performing said surgery...

My spleen... (1)

Eric Smith (4379) | about 5 years ago | (#28948127)

My spleen attracts every other spleen in the universe with a force proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the [square of the] distance between them. (to misquote Weird Al Yankovic)

Oblig Car Analogy (1)

purpleque (948533) | about 5 years ago | (#28948161)

The parallel in car terms is a company fleet of vehicles. You don't want to have to rent an entire fleet from the ground up every time you need it.

You gotta go to the rental agency and hope they have enough vehicles to meet your needs then you gotta return em all and hope they have enough the next time.

c08 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28948173)

Bio 101 texts have this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#28948175)

II thought that the immune function of spleen was common knowledge. My biology textbook (Principles of Anatomy & Physiology, by Tortora & Derrickson) explicity says that spleen is the largest lymphatic organ and plays an important role in immune response and that people who have their spleens removed at at a higher risk of death.

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