Tuesday, July 31, 2007

How to cushion a back-handed slap

I'm currently sacrificing some of my usual posting time in order to accommodate an insanely busy schedule, so today's paper is just a short medical case-study. It's no less interesting for that though – in fact I've been meaning to post about this paper since a friend (hi KJ!) brought it to my attention a couple of months ago.

Dr Timothy Flynn from the University of North Carolina reports on an ex-soldier who presented with complications from an old shrapnel injury to the back of the hand. I'm not really familiar with the medical terminology, but I gather that the soldier's skin graft (from his lower abdomen) was transferred to his hand with some of the underlying adipose (fatty) tissue still attached, and that most of the adipose base was later removed when the skin started to heal.

Adipose cells from different parts of the body have distinct characteristics, and may respond differently to environmental cues such as diet. In this ex-soldier's case, some of the abdominal adipose tissue transferred to his hand wound obviously survived the grafting procedure. As he got older and gained weight around the abdomen, the adipose tissue in his hand responded in the same way as its original site.

You've guessed it - his hand has a beer belly.

There's nothing in the paper about what happened to the patient, but Dr Flynn mentions that previous animal model work in this field has enabled the development of new cosmetic surgery procedures. Hopefully the discovery of this accidental human test subject will have similar medical benefits.


  1. that paper was truly one of the strangest and yet one of the coolest papers I've read in years.

    However, no one else seemed to share my amusement over its ramifications for those people who get fat from their rear end injected into their lips :)

  2. Hee hee! You're evil.

    There weren't enough details in the paper for my liking, but the photo made up for it :-)


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