When you eat right and exercise to do your body good, you may have little idea how much your body is giving back all the time.  From recent scientific discoveries, here’s a look at a few mechanisms under our skin that not only keep us alive, but provide us with a shopping mall of good things.

Shock absorbers:  Without tendons we could not handle a basketball game or even the stresses of ordinary activity.  Science Daily reported on work at Brown University about how our limbs respond to sudden stresses.  “Experiments showed that tendons absorb the initial burst of energy from impact before the leg muscles react,” the article said, based on work they did with turkeys, which have similar tendon-muscle groups as we do.  “The tendons act as shock absorbers, protecting the leg muscle from damage at the moment of impact.”

An illustration accompanying the article shows a turkey coming in for a landing.  The tendons first provide a “fast stretch” like coiled springs before the muscles absorb the blow.  Then as the muscles do their part about a tenth of a second later, the tendons continue with a “slow stretch,” shunting the energy they absorbed to the muscles.  The result is a soft landing that would otherwise cause serious damage.  “It is becoming increasingly apparent that springy tendons are a big part of what makes us go,” said one of the Brown University biologists.  The article stated that “The research may cross into biomimetics, used to make two-legged robot locomotion more similar to human locomotion, for example.  It could even help in athletic training.”  Another biologist gave us reason for thanks: “We can say that in real ways, the muscle has a safety net with the tendon there and protecting it.”

Colon police:  We rely on microbes to help us digest our food, but there are good guys and bad guys in our inner subway tunnels.  Fortunately, we have agents patrolling the corridors and checking their credentials.  Live Science reported on work at the Washington University Medical School in St. Louis.  The researchers hypothesize that a special population of white blood cells called Treg cells learns how to tell the good guys from the bad.  If future work bears this out, it may become possible to help patients with autoimmune disorders by re-training cells to recognize and tolerate “self”….

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