To live is not merely to breathe; it is to act; it is to make use of our organs, senses, faculties - of all those parts of ourselves which give us the feeling of existence.

JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU (1712-78)

Vital Organs

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Dispensable Organs


A surprising number of your organs are dispensable, at a pinch. The tonsils, adenoids, sinuses, gallbladder, appendix, testes, ovaries, uterus, and prostate are all optional extras (nice to have in some cases, but not strictly necessary). With some adverse consequences, you can live without a thyroid, a spleen, half of your brain (a hemispherectomy removes precisely that) and numerous veins (you have many more than you need).
 
The liver can be substantially removed and will re-grow to full size. Bladders can also be re-grown. The fibula, the smaller of the two bones in your lower leg, is essentially non-weight-bearing, and so is dispensable; indeed, it’s often used as a spare part to repair other damaged bones. The large intestine (colon) can be replaced with a section of the small intestine made into a pouch, and you can manage without a stomach if the oesophagus is re-routed to connect directly to the small intestine. 

A surprising number of your organs are dispensable. The tonsils, adenoids, sinuses, gallbladder, appendix, testes, ovaries, uterus, and prostate are all optional extras (nice to have in some cases, but not strictly necessary). With some adverse consequences, you can live without a thyroid, a spleen, half of your brain (a hemispherectomy removes precisely that) and numerous veins (you have many more than you need) and only one lung.
 
The liver can be substantially removed and will re-grow to full size. Bladders can also be re-grown.

The fibula, the smaller of the two bones in your lower leg, is essentially non-weight-bearing, and so is dispensable; indeed, it’s often used as a spare part to repair other damaged bones.

The large intestine (colon) can be replaced with a section of the small intestine made into a pouch, and you can manage without a stomach if the oesophagus is re-routed to connect directly to the small intestine. 

Bodily Organs


Aristotle believed that that intelligence was located in the heart, and that the brain was a device for cooling the blood.

The heart pumps over five litres of blood a minute. In a lifetime, it pumps enough blood to fill a football stadium. It shrinks while you're in space. A hummingbird heart beats at 1260 beats per minute; a blue whale's heart beats only 5-6 times per minute.

Because walnuts resemble the brain, they were believed in mediaeval times to be able to cure headaches.

The skin is the largest organ in the human body. It makes up about 15% of the body's weight and is about 20 square feet in area.

Polar bear's liver has so high a concentration of vitamin A that if you eat more than two ounces you'll die.

Axolotls can regenerate almost any injured part of their body, including limbs, tail, skin, and even the heart, liver and kidney.
 

RAY CHARLES (1930-2004)

I was born with music inside me. Music was one of my parts. Like my ribs, my kidneys, my liver, my heart. Like my blood.

Kidney Transplants 


The kidney is an emunctory, that is something that removes waste from the body.

When you receive a transplanted kidney, they leave the old one in situ. There’s one case of a man who had repeated transplants ending up with five kidneys. Kidney donors live longer on average than the rest of us – not because donating a kidney is good for you, but because donors are carefully screened, and are therefore likely to be healthier individuals to begin with. Iran has a state-run kidney buying and selling business.

You can operate on only one kidney – or none at all, if you have dialysis. 

Carnea was the Roman goddess of door handles and bodily organs.

Pope Francis has lived with only one lung since he was a teenager.

Komodo dragons have special organs in their mouths - 'Jacobson's organs' - that decode the distance and direction of prey.

The electricity-producing organs take up the whole of the hindmost 80% of the electric eel's body.

Every leech has 32 brains.

Brain Wagers 


John Wesley Powell, the American national hero who led the first boat trip through the Grand Canyon in 1869, had a running joke with his friend W. J. McGee, who was president of the National Geographic society, about who had the bigger brain. They both signed an agreement that after their death the bet would be posthumously decided. Powell died in 1902 and anthropologist Edward Spitzka, who enjoyed weighing and comparing the brains of prominent men, received his brain. Powell's brain weighed 1.488 kilos. In 1912, McGee died in Washington. His brain was extracted and weighed 1.410kg. Powell had won the bet, but, unfortunately, we have no means of informing him.

Brain Cells


Surgeons have surgically removed a whole hemisphere of the brain hundreds of times for disorders uncontrollable in any other way; it's called hemispherectomy. The surgery has no effect on personality or memory, but you would lose the use of one eye and one hand (the opposite side to the side of the brain lost). Furthermore, if you lose the left half of your brain you may struggle with speaking for a little while until your brain can self-right.

The idea that alcohol kills brain cells dates back at least as far back as the early temperance writers, but it has no basis in scientific fact. In 1993, Scientists Jensen and Pakkenberg took samples from alcoholics and non-alcoholics and showed that there was no significant difference in either the overall number or the density of neurons between the two groups. Many other studies have shown that moderate drinking can in fact help cognition. A study in Sweden showed that more brain cells are grown in mice who are given alcohol.

SHERLOCK HOLMES

I am a brain Watson. The rest of me is a mere appendix.

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Tiny spiders’ brains spill into their legs because their heads are too small to accommodate them.

The Sea squirt larva floats through the sea in search of a rock to cling to. When it finds one, it no longer needs its brain so it eats it.

To evade capture, African spiny mice can jettison nearly all of their skin. They then re-grow it.