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Biotech Science

Purpose of Appendix Believed Found 235

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the still-at-the-back-of-the-book dept.
CambodiaSam sent in this story, which opens: "Some scientists think they have figured out the real job of the troublesome and seemingly useless appendix: It produces and protects good germs for your gut. That's the theory from surgeons and immunologists at Duke University Medical School, published online in a scientific journal this week. For generations the appendix has been dismissed as superfluous. Doctors figured it had no function. Surgeons removed them routinely. People live fine without them. The function of the appendix seems related to the massive amount of bacteria populating the human digestive system, according to the study in the Journal of Theoretical Biology. There are more bacteria than human cells in the typical body. Most are good and help digest food. But sometimes the flora of bacteria in the intestines die or are purged. Diseases such as cholera or amoebic dysentery would clear the gut of useful bacteria. The appendix's job is to reboot the digestive system in that case."
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Purpose of Appendix Believed Found

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday October 06, 2007 @10:10AM (#20879601) Journal
    I have studied little biology or medical subjects though I've read studies about this same sort of thing happening with asthma, polio [wikipedia.org] & allergies. I think I've posted about this before but anecdotally I noticed there were no farmers who had allergies or asthma as I grew up and worked on farms with them. The young kids would play in hay and run around in the mud outside when it rained. So it seems that a problem with being an overly hygienic society today (as the article notes) is that we don't expose our young to these pathogens early on so they never adapt to them and suffer exposure to them later. This is why I recommend against anyone installing an air purifier in their home. It's a great idea--if you never plan on leaving your home.

    I can't find the research but I thought a long time ago that a German study was done to find out why polio was "a middle class disease." If I recall they found that poor children were exposed to it since birth and rarely suffered from it since they were exposed to it always. The middle class children would be protected as infants but once exposed to it, their bodies would not be able to fight it. The upper class would take all costs to reduce exposure to it at all times--and they could.

    Now this research is interestingly related in that appendicitis may be something that occurs due to our lack of exposure to diseases that destroy all the germs in our body (cholera & certain types of dysentery). Should something happen that would threaten this, our bodies respond poorly to it and the appendix flares up. As this article notes, appendicitis occurs less frequently in underdeveloped countries. Perhaps this is more reinforcement for the idea that protecting your children from germs is a double edged sword.
    • by paleo2002 (1079697) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @10:19AM (#20879693)

      I have studied (some) biology, especially from an evolutionary perspective. There are aspects of our immune system that deal with macroscopic threats - parasites, foreign bodies, etc. In modern, industrialized society intestinal parasites and unremoved splinters aren't really a problem so a part of our immune system is left with very little to do. Like a bored child or pet, our immune system goes looking for something to do. It overreacts to pollen, proteins in common foods, and animal dander.

      With the proliferation of antibacterial products, I worry about two things. In the short term, what kind of new allergies will people develop as chemistry continues to replace people's immune systems? In the long term, what kind of backlash are we going to see when microbes begin to develop some sort of resistance to alcohol and other antibacterial agents?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by eldavojohn (898314) *

        With the proliferation of antibacterial products, I worry about two things. In the short term, what kind of new allergies will people develop as chemistry continues to replace people's immune systems? In the long term, what kind of backlash are we going to see when microbes begin to develop some sort of resistance to alcohol and other antibacterial agents?

        Precisely the idea behind a story [slashdot.org] I submitted a while ago cautioning the use of antibacterial soap--especially since the truth is it does little or nothing more than regular soap.

        I could spout more of my fears of an overly medicated, overly hygienic society but my neck is really sore from the tinfoil fortress atop my head. :-) Well, at least I still have my freedom of choice not to take Tylenol when I have a headache, a glass of scotch usually fixes it better anyways.

        • And I'm glad that I can take ibuprofen, what with being not old enough(and not willing, for that matter) to drink scotch...
        • by G00F (241765)
          A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down . .

          the medicine, which is some form or another of alcohol was used to help the kids sleep, to make it easier on the parents. . . .
      • by NotoriousHood (970422) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @10:37AM (#20879883)
        I was also worried about bacteria adapting to alcohol etc.

        From my research and discussions with doctors etc I've come to learn that bacteria adapt to antibiotics because these agents are very precise and destroy a very narrow type of microorganism, whereas alcohol, chlorine bleach, and all other cleaning agents wipe everything out. There has been no (to my knowledge) increase in resistance to bleach used in the kitchen for instance. It would be like gaining resistance to fire. The properties of these antibacterial agents is just too violent against the cell for evolution to do anything about it.

        I'm sure this could have been said better, but basically antibacterial soap will not create super-deadly strains of bacteria, whereas continued use of antibiotics has and will.
        • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@b ... h u d s o n .com> on Saturday October 06, 2007 @10:56AM (#20880025) Journal

          > "I was also worried about bacteria adapting to alcohol etc. "

          ... they do ... where do you think all those ugly bacteria come from? Bacteria in bars, seeing other bacteria through beer-bottle goggles, breeding, then trying to gnaw their cilia off the next morning because their mate is coyote-ugly ...

        • by JanneM (7445) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @11:21AM (#20880243) Homepage
          It's a little trickier than that. It is clear life in general is very good at adapting to just about anything; there's been experiments done where microorganisms have ben pressured to adapt to conditions no less bad than bleach. But a lot of people forget that most adaptations also have negative effects. And if the bad condition is rare enough then it may simply not be worth it, evolutionary speaking, to adapt to it.

          There's a beetle on the British isles that lays its eggs in shallow water. So the female flies around, looking for small water collections (small lakes, ponds, that sort of thing) in which to lay her eggs. But her detection system is simplistic, mainly looking for ground surfaces of a certain size that polarize light. And that includes stuff like wet asphalt and newly washed cars. So there's a lot of beetles diving right into newly clean cars, making a mess at the very least opportune moment.

          But even without cars and asphalt, it's pretty clear her detection system is on the rough side. The reason they don't have better "pond detectors" is most likely that the current one is good enough; a lot of the beetles do hit good water, and a more complex system would penalize the individuals with it (in energy and development time as juveniles if nothing else) more than they'd gain by being more precise with their egg-laying attempts.

          Similarly, from a bacterias point of view, a disinfected surface is rare - really rare. Any adaptation to in with even a slightly negative side effect is likely to disappear unless the individuals and their offspring can rely on staying in that environment for a long time, making it a separate niche. Which they can't since a disinfected surface normally doesn't stay that way. There is no long-term survival benefit in being good at surviving that environment.

          This is why cutting down on antibiotic use would not just slow down resistance, but can actually reverse it. Make the antibiotic rare enough and resistance genes won't remain.
          • by rs79 (71822)
            In the tropical fish world antibiotics are terribly abused. They do no good the way most aquarists use them, are cheap and never work frankly. Proper administration involves culturing the bug, seeiing if it's resistant to the drug you plan on using then feeding of injectig it. This is usually resevred for $15,000 koi or such. Not your 10 gallon tank with platies and neons.

            Plus there's one bug Mycobacterium marinum that is zoonetic, that is, it corsses a species barrier (kinda rare, most pathogens are very h
        • by Lurker2288 (995635) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @12:27PM (#20880661)
          It's more a function of the fact that antibiotics attack a very definite metabolic activity that's vital for the bacterium to survive. The beta-lactams (think penicillin) interfere with the production of the peptidoglycan cell wall, whereas others interfere with bacterial protein synthesis. So, if the cell can come up with something to negate this attack (pumping the antibiotic out before it can do any damage, producing a protein that neutralizes the antibiotic) then it becomes resistant. On the contrary, something like bleach or alcohol massively disrupts the cell and kills it in a variety of ways all at once.

          I like your fire analogy, though. Very apt.
        • by jez9999 (618189) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @12:34PM (#20880721) Homepage Journal
          There has been no (to my knowledge) increase in resistance to bleach used in the kitchen for instance. It would be like gaining resistance to fire. The properties of these antibacterial agents is just too violent against the cell for evolution to do anything about it.

          That's exactly why I clean my hands by setting them on fire. Anything left after it's been put out can stay.
        • by dpilot (134227)
          Chlorine resistance...

          I seem to remember hearing that there are some bacteria evolving (pardon me, consulting with their Creator about a small redesign) resistance to low levels of chlorine, like the 3ppm or so commonly found in swimming pools. I haven't heard much, and there's been no general call to migrate away from chlorine to something else. Municipal water supplies have moved to chloramine, but I don't believe that's related to chlorine resistance.
        • Working in a hospital we're constantly at war with the nasty bugs. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MRSA [wikipedia.org] is the big bad bug.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by tmosley (996283)
        Bacteria can't develop resistance to alcohol without becoming something other than bacteria. If they could, humanity would never have become civilized. Much of the problem with living together in large communities is finding clean water. The easiest way to turn infested water into something you can drink is by fermenting it into an alcoholic beverage. Other antibiotics are more prone to causing immunity, as they attack specific proteins and such, tearing the membrane open. Ethanol just penetrates the m
      • What's wrong with unremoved splinters? I discovered the other day I had a tiny one in my finger, that's why it had been tender for a few months before. I removed it and everything's fine now, but your post suggests they were/are a problem?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bodrell (665409)

        There are aspects of our immune system that deal with macroscopic threats - parasites, foreign bodies, etc. In modern, industrialized society intestinal parasites and unremoved splinters aren't really a problem so a part of our immune system is left with very little to do. Like a bored child or pet, our immune system goes looking for something to do. It overreacts to pollen, proteins in common foods, and animal dander.

        Yup. Right on the money--although I might add rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, type I diabe

    • by king-manic (409855) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @11:04AM (#20880079)
      I have studied little biology or medical subjects though I've read studies about this same sort of thing happening with asthma, polio & allergies. I think I've posted about this before but anecdotally I noticed there were no farmers who had allergies or asthma as I grew up and worked on farms with them. The young kids would play in hay and run around in the mud outside when it rained. So it seems that a problem with being an overly hygienic society today (as the article notes) is that we don't expose our young to these pathogens early on so they never adapt to them and suffer exposure to them later. This is why I recommend against anyone installing an air purifier in their home. It's a great idea--if you never plan on leaving your home.

      I can't find the research but I thought a long time ago that a German study was done to find out why polio was "a middle class disease." If I recall they found that poor children were exposed to it since birth and rarely suffered from it since they were exposed to it always. The middle class children would be protected as infants but once exposed to it, their bodies would not be able to fight it. The upper class would take all costs to reduce exposure to it at all times--and they could.

      Now this research is interestingly related in that appendicitis may be something that occurs due to our lack of exposure to diseases that destroy all the germs in our body (cholera & certain types of dysentery). Should something happen that would threaten this, our bodies respond poorly to it and the appendix flares up. As this article notes, appendicitis occurs less frequently in underdeveloped countries. Perhaps this is more reinforcement for the idea that protecting your children from germs is a double edged sword.


      The other way to interpret it is that people with severe allergies and who would suffer from polio are exposed to it early and die. As most of the groups outlined have higher infant mortality. It may not be a full explanation but it's certainly a contributing factor. From a evolutionary standpoint those who would have died from allergies/polio/germs due to a weaker system survive in "middle class" society and thus what is rare among the lower class amplifies overtime in the middle class until it reaches soem steady state %.
      • by irtza (893217) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @02:41PM (#20881793) Homepage
        thank you. If I had mod points, I would boost you up and call it a day.

        Part of what evolution teaches is a thing called "Selective pressure". If there is no pressure, then functionality is lost. For example, species that adapt to caves tend to go blind because destructive mutations to the eyes pose no greater survival risk.

        The same is true for the lower classes vs middle vs upper classes as mentioned in parent. As sickle cell, thalessemia, reactive airway diseases become more treatable, their prevalence will increase or at least come to a steady state. This will also allow other diseases or complications of these conditions to manifest. An example of this would be side-effects of anti-retroviral agents. They can be quite devestating in some cases, but does that mean we stop prescribing them? You can only justify that if you - like Hitler (I thank thee Godwin for this one) - feel that the weak should die to strengthen the gene pool.

        Many people are opposed to the idea of going on hemodialysis or getting an organ transplant. They site examples of people doing poorly on these therapies - about the amount of time they spend in the hospital - about the slew of medications they are on. One must bear in mind that these complications are far better than the alternative - a short miserable existence.

        Look at the life-expectancy of the lower classes vs the middle class and you will see that hygiene has some significant advantages. Soap and antimicrobial agents are one of the few medical instruments that have had a great impact on the overall life-span of society. Most other advances barely left a dent in the overall life-span.

        if someone says its better to have rampant cholera and dysentery wiping out huge populations of children - potentially doubling or tripling infant mortality - just so we don't have as much appendicitis, I would question their judgement greatly.

        As for air purifiers (mentioned somewhere in this thread) - they possibly prevent interstitial lung disease on top of removing allergens.
    • by wikinerd (809585)

      So it seems that a problem with being an overly hygienic society today ... we don't expose our young to these pathogens early on so they never adapt to them and suffer exposure to them later

      That's true - and I believe that in the future (rich) people will be paying for training their immune systems, just like they do now by paying for going to the gym,

      • They already have allergy treatments. Basically, they give you a shot every few months. Now they're just waiting for the technology that allows you to work out in your sleep.
        • by scottv67 (731709) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @12:43PM (#20880767)
          They already have allergy treatments. Basically, they give you a shot every few months.

          If you are talking about immunotherapy for the treatment of allergies, the frequency of the injections is more than "every few months". It's more like "once a week". The injections provide an ever-increasing amount of the substance the patient is allergic to in an effort to get the patient's immune system to "chill out". The last time I was receiving these shots, I was getting them every five days (Mon, Fri, Wed, Mon, Fri, etc.). I spent a lot of time sitting in the waiting room at the allergy clinic (you have to sit in the clinic after receiving the shot so the clinic staff can monitor you for an adverse reaction to the shot).

          http://www.allergycapital.com.au/Pages/immth.html [allergycapital.com.au]
    • by Sosarian (39969)
      Your allergy comments are interesting, but polio is still with us ravaging people in some of the poorest places in the world.

    • by nwbvt (768631)

      Except more people in the world die of germs than they do of things like appendicitis. In those underdeveloped countries you mention, its not uncommon for people to die of those diseases we are sheltered against. The concept of the vast majority of children surviving into and beyond adulthood is a rather new one and pretty much only present in developed countries.

      Yes, there may be some negatives from living a life sheltered from disease, but the net benefit is obviously good.

    • by scottv67 (731709) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @12:30PM (#20880685)
      I think I've posted about this before but anecdotally I noticed there were no farmers who had allergies or asthma as I grew up and worked on farms with them.

      I think you may have it backwards: You are saying that there are no farmers with asthma because working on a farm prevents asthma. It's more likely that there are no farmers with asthma because people with asthma do not become farmers. Even though I (someone who has had asthma my entire life) have helped bale hay, milk cows and shovel manure, there is no way that I would *think* of becoming a farmer. Wearing a dust mask while baling hay or doing other chores on the farm is no fun. Being in the barn without some sort of mask is a surefire recipe for having a meeting with Mr. Albuterol later in the day.

      I could come-up with a parallel to your "I've never known farmers with asthma" story by saying "I've never seen a one-armed crab fisherman on the Discovery TV show "Deadliest Catch". I could infer from watch the Deadliest Catch that crab fishing must be a pretty safe line of work because there are no one-armed guys working the crab pots. The reality is there are no one-armed crab fisherman because the one-armed guys do not sign-up for a job that they know would be extremely hazardous for them to do with just one arm.

      This is why I recommend against anyone installing an air purifier in their home. It's a great idea--if you never plan on leaving your home.

      I'm sorry, I didn't catch the name of the medical school you graduated from or where you did your residency in allergy/asthma. Could you post that information one more time? I have an IQAir HealthPro Plus http://www.iqair.us/residential/roomairpurifiers/healthproplus.php [iqair.us] that runs in my bedroom every night. That air purifier filters the dust, pollen and other allergens out of air inside my house so that I can breathe more easily - especially during the spring and fall when thing like tree pollen, ragweed and alternaria are bad. The indoor air purifiers also help when local "air quality alerts" are issued. Even if the air outside is filled with small pollutants that are harmful to my lungs, I can come home at the end of the day, run the IQAir and have decent breathable air.

      Here is a little more background on local air quality issues:
      http://dnr.wi.gov/org/aw/air/health/status.asp [wi.gov]

      The watch is being issued because of the forecast for elevated levels of fine particles in the air. Fine particle pollution is composed of microscopic dust, soot, liquid droplets and smoke particles that are 2.5 microns or smaller. These fine particles come primarily from combustion sources, such as power plants, factories and other industrial sources, vehicle exhaust, and outdoor fires.

      The Air Quality Index is forecast to reach the orange level, which is considered unhealthy for people in sensitive groups. People in those sensitive groups include those with heart or lung disease, asthma, older adults and children. When an air quality watch is issued, people in those groups are advised to reschedule or cut back on strenuous activities during the watch period.

      People with lung diseases such as asthma and bronchitis and heart disease should pay attention to cardiac symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath or respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing and discomfort when taking a breath, and consult with their physician if they have concerns or are experiencing symptoms. Fine particle pollution deposits itself deep into the lungs and cannot easily be exhaled. People who are at risk are particularly vulnerable after several days of high particle pollution exposure.

      Regarding your comment about air purifiers being a bad idea,

      It's a great idea--if you never plan on leaving your home.

      I can't

    • by YoungHack (36385)

      I have studied little biology or medical subjects though I've read studies about this same sort of thing happening with asthma, polio & allergies. I think I've posted about this before but anecdotally I noticed there were no farmers who had allergies or asthma as I grew up and worked on farms with them. The young kids would play in hay and run around in the mud outside when it rained. So it seems that a problem with being an overly hygienic society today (as the article notes) is that we don't expose ou

    • While I agree with most of scottv67's response to your message, I did read some very interesting research correlating allergies and lack of hepatitis A infection. Google it and you'll see what I mean. What was really interesting is that they not only had the correlation, but they had the beginning of a causation theory based on a specific gene.
  • Paper Abstract (Score:5, Informative)

    by nodrogluap (165820) * on Saturday October 06, 2007 @10:11AM (#20879615) Homepage
    The abstract, for those who don't have access to the journal (article DOI doi:10.1016/j.jtbi.2007.08.032):

    The human vermiform ("worm-like") appendix is a 5 to 10 cm long and 0.5 to 1
    cm wide pouch that extends from the cecum of the large bowel. The architecture of the
    human appendix is unique among mammals, and few mammals other than humans have
    an appendix at all. The function of the human appendix has long been a matter of debate,
    with the structure often considered to be a vestige of evolutionary development despite
    evidence to the contrary based on comparative primate anatomy. The appendix is thought
    to have some immune function based on its association with substantial lymphatic tissue,
    although the specific nature of that putative function is unknown. Based (a) on a recently
    acquired understanding of immune-mediated biofilm formation by commensal bacteria in
    the mammalian gut, (b) on biofilm distribution in the large bowel, (c) the association of
    lymphoid tissue with the appendix, (d) the potential for biofilms to protect and support
    colonization by commensal bacteria, and (e) on the architecture of the human bowel, we
    propose that the human appendix is well suited as a "safe house" for commensal bacteria,
    providing support for bacterial growth and potentially facilitating re-inoculation of the
    colon in the event that the contents of the intestinal tract are purged following exposure to a pathogen.
  • Obligatory (Score:2, Funny)

    by onosson (1107107)
    I, for one, welcome our bacteria-breeding appendix overlords.
  • Rebooting appendixes and DHCP neurons? [arstechnica.com]

    Neat.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 06, 2007 @10:23AM (#20879751)
    On the evening of the sixth day of creation, God had an argument with his editors about what to do with some material that all agreed was clever but not an especially great fit. So they decided to move it to the appendix.
  • by lpangelrob (714473) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @10:26AM (#20879777)

    The appendix's job is to reboot the digestive system in that case.

    Gives a new meaning to the term "stack dump". I myself am currently suffering from a stop error. :-(

    • by kalpol (714519)

      I myself am currently suffering from a stop error. :-(
      Better than buffer overflow. This being Texas - OU weekend, going to be a lot of that around.
  • "produces" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @10:26AM (#20879779)
    Just like leaving meat out in the sun "produces" flies? Didn't we sort all this out back in the 17th century or whatever? Oh wait, its CNN, that paragon of quality journalism.
  • by Scrameustache (459504) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @10:38AM (#20879899) Homepage Journal
    The purpose of the appendix to spontaneously kill you in a horribly painful way.
    Unless you have access to surgeons. Yay modern medicine!
    • Confused my regular doctors no end. Luckily, both appendixes went bad at nearly the same time. The one on my left was found after they looked at the one on the right and decided it couldn't have caused all of the problems (high fever, hallucinations, etc). The surgeon saved them in a jar and asked if he could have them. Of course I let him, he had saved my life.

      Something good to know, if you ever have a pain on the left side and someone tells you it can't be your appendix.

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @10:59AM (#20880045) Homepage

    The appendix's job is to reboot the digestive system in that case.

    So your appendix is run by Microsoft support.

  • Keeping kids healthy (Score:5, Informative)

    by throatmonster (147275) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @11:01AM (#20880059)
    Want to give your offspring the best chance?

    1. Breastfeed. Not just for 6 weeks either. Worldwide average weaning age is 3-4yrs. U.S. is about the worst at this.
    2. Let your kids eat dirt. No, don't encourage it. Just don't freak when it happens.
    3. Be very conservative with immunizations. How many middle class US children are really going to get exposed to Hep? And since thermerisol has finally been removed from vaccination products, the autism rate has finally stopped exploding (despite the fact that studies show no link between the two).
    4. LOTS of physical contact! Breastfed babies get this. It stimulates brain development.
    5. Love the little knuckleheads despite everything.
    6. Learn basic biology and medicine yourself. Your offspring, your responsibility. Knowledge and common sense go a long way towards health.

    We're still learning about biology and medicine. Oh shit, you mean bacteria can evolve to become resistant to antibiotics, and that blanketing the population with antibiotics (antibaterical handsoap, anyone?) causes bigger problems than it solves? I've never heard of a staph infection from a home birth. When women give birth at home around all the same germs they are exposed to anyway, postpartum infections are almost nonexistent.

    OTOH, I will take exception to the idea that there were no allergies and less sickness among rural populations 2 generations ago. There were. The difference is that those kids were just labeled "sickly" and often died back then. Is it a bad thing that those kids have a chance now?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autism_(incidence) [wikipedia.org] seems to indicate that the US autism rate has continued to rise after the removal of Thimerosal from children's vaccines five years ago. Do you have more recent data?
    • by Craig Davison (37723) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @01:24PM (#20881111)

      3. Be very conservative with immunizations. How many middle class US children are really going to get exposed to Hep? And since thermerisol has finally been removed from vaccination products, the autism rate has finally stopped exploding (despite the fact that studies show no link between the two).
      You're confused. Vaccinate your children! The only reason these infectious diseases aren't a threat to your kid is that everyone else was vaccinated at one point. Vaccinations actually strengthen the immune system. Here's a FAQ: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/im/vs-sv/vs-faq_e.html [phac-aspc.gc.ca]


      But just to reinforce your point, I'll add 7. Don't slather on the antibiotic ointment when you get a paper cut. Don't use Lysol in your kitchen - use a bleach solution if soap is not going to cut it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      "I will take exception to the idea that there were no allergies and less sickness among rural populations 2 generations ago. There were. The difference is that those kids were just labeled "sickly" and often died back then. Is it a bad thing that those kids have a chance now?"

      I concur. My father-in-law, a farming Depression baby, suffered from asthma his whole life, and the last twenty years of his life were a state of constant illness, mostly from the damage he'd suffered pre-treatment. (Though in the late
    • by Loke the Dog (1054294) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @01:45PM (#20881277)
      2 and 3 contradict each other. One says immunization by exposure to bacteria/viruses is good, the other says its bad. Admittedly, sterile needles have replaced dirty fingers for the last century. But I don't see why the old method was better than the new one.
      • by Jay L (74152)
        Admittedly, sterile needles have replaced dirty fingers for the last century

        Mostly. There are still rural parts of the U.S. where extruded surgical steel is in short supply, or rusts too easily (think of the humidity in the Mississippi delta), and hypodermic dirty fingers are still used for injections there.
    • 1. Breastfeed. Not just for 6 weeks either. Worldwide average weaning age is 3-4yrs. U.S. is about the worst at this.
      2. Let your kids eat dirt. No, don't encourage it. Just don't freak when it happens.
      3. Be very conservative with immunizations. How many middle class US children are really going to get exposed to Hep? And since thermerisol has finally been removed from vaccination products, the autism rate has finally stopped exploding (despite the fact that studies show no link between the two).
      4. LOTS of p
    • And STOP putting helmets and pads on them for everything they do! I didn't have any, and it didn't hurt my brainbrainbrain brainbrainmbainbranbanbin at all!!11!

      (in all seriousness, however, there was a sci-fi novel I read that was relevent, about a kid who was raised in a sterile technological environment, who freaked out, for example, in being faced with the prospect of eating a mere orange, but then ask anyone today where their food comes from, and about 4/5ths of the time they'll say "From the store". Go
  • by Skapare (16644) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @11:11AM (#20880159) Homepage

    From TFA:

    The theory led Gary Huffnagle, a University of Michigan internal medicine and microbiology professor, to wonder about the value of another body part that is often yanked: "I'll bet eventually we'll find the same sort of thing with the tonsils."

    And what about the foreskin?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by JewGold (924683)
      The foreskin has a very definite purpose. It keeps the head of the penis protected and moistened: an internal organ as it was designed. Also the foreskin itself contains one of the largest concentration of nerves on the body. These features help with penetration and improve sexual pleasure tremendously.

      Outside of some religious circles, the practice of butchering newborns is a very new one. A recent study has shown men who have been butchered have only a fraction of the sexual pleasure as normal, intact men
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jez9999 (618189)
        There was also a study showing that foreskin removal lowers the risk of transmitting HIV. It's an unfortunate, but probably correct, fact. I think it should be emphasized that it's not some useless/evil part of the male anatomy, though.
        • There was also a study showing that foreskin removal lowers the risk of transmitting HIV. It's an unfortunate, but probably correct, fact. I think it should be emphasized that it's not some useless/evil part of the male anatomy, though.

          HIV infection rates for an males is low. really low. Doing high risk activities make sit higher (anal sex, prostitutes, IV drugs). But I doubt the difference from 2.0% to 2.5% is really going to justify circumcision.
  • We all know that the Appendix is the useful bit at the end of the instruction manual. Heck.... there are often several of them, all labeled in a neat alphabetical order.

    And yeah.... if you pour water on it, and set it out in the sun, I'm sure it'll become a haven for bacteria.... but would you really want to do that?
  • by EVil Lawyer (947367) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @12:50PM (#20880825)
    My high school biology teacher at an "excellent" public school told me that the function of the appendix in the olden days was to digest rocks and such that primitive humans might have digested by mistake. =)
    • When I had mine removed, I heard that it was for digesting cellulose, including twigs, bark, and other rough plant material. I had to give up my wood chip grazing habit. I was also sad to acknowledge that an appendicitis is curtains for a rabbit.
  • So, what they're really saying is that the appendix is the Ark where the good bacteria hide out when you have to fire the intestinal Halo system to wipe out the flood of cholera.
  • I've never heard that gut flora are necessary to survive. Helpful, yes. Necessary to digest certain starches and efficiently absorb nutrients, also yes. But they also are what makes poo smell bad. And they're kinda.. icky in general. I'm not sure why everyones so big on them. Look, without them you may get constipated or have to take vitamin supplements or be more prone to certain infections, but you won't drop dead from lack of intestinal bacteria.
  • by cryfreedomlove (929828) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @02:40PM (#20881787)
    Please don't read this and think that you or your loved ones should avoid an appendectomy if you need one. Nearly all appendectomies are performed on painfully sick people who are facing certain, slow, painful death without an appendectomy.
  • I have often wondered about something like this. When I was young I had no food, stomach or digestive problems or symptoms at all. I had my appendix out at age 14. Then in my mid twenties I developed all sorts of digestive problems. I'm Lactose intolerant though nobody else in my family is at all (all of english/scottish/german descent). Many foods cause a good deal of stomach tension and discomfort. Yeah go ahead, chalk it up to stress. I've got a job that promises a fantastic pension, I get four months a

  • Purpose? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Brandybuck (704397) on Saturday October 06, 2007 @03:52PM (#20882287) Homepage Journal
    Does everything have to have a purpose? That's far too deterministic a philosophy for my tastes. Maybe the appendix doesn't have a purpose, is not part of a plan, has nothing whatsoever to do with survival of the fittest. Maybe it's just a quirk of intestinal development. Maybe its benign enough that there was no reason [sic] to cull it from the gene pool.
    • Does everything have to have a purpose?

      For fundamentalist christians, yes, it does. Creationism would be meaningless if their god created flaws.

      Follow the money trail of studies finding purposes for useless vestiges, and you'll quickly conclude that this usually is pseudo-science, seeking to prove a spiritual opinion with biased "research".
      It would surprise me very much if the drivers for this "study" didn't turn out to be christians.

      --
      *Art

  • Docs removed my perfectly good appendix while rummaging around in me for other reasons. Like a TV repairman who closes up your set but still has "extra parts" laying out.

    I have all kinds of digestive problems 20 years later, can I sue?

  • It contains your soul?
  • Considering how many bacteriological critters we have living in our guts, and how many of them (much like the appendix) can actually kill us if any of them go extremely off balance. Appendicitis can be considered as a microcosmic effect on the same scale. So perhaps at worst, what it really amounts to, is an appendix blockage? Therefore, the probabke way to cure appendicitis is perhaps similar to an angioplasty? Hell, an angioplasty balloon being fed up one's ass in a general anaethetically numbed non surgi

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