Snakes on a Petri Dish

By Scott LaFee

March 25, 2020 5 min read

Organoids are all the rage in biological science these days. They are essentially mini versions of targeted organs, such as the brain, liver and intestinal tract. They aren't exactly the same thing, of course, but at the cellular level, they perform organ functions that allow scientists to study them without the confusing bother of the rest of the human body.

Dutch researchers have produced the first organoids of snake venom glands. Rather than actually having to work with venomous snakes, scientists hope to use these miniature glands to create lab-made toxins that can be a source for new drugs, and as an alternative to finding antivenoms to prevent nearly 140,000 snakebites worldwide each year.

A few of these bites, no doubt, happen to lab workers handling dangerous snakes.

Get Me That, Stat!

A report from the University of California, Los Angeles, suggests the United States is falling behind many other high-income countries in ensuring health and disability rights for citizens. One hundred and forty-two countries provide some sort of constitutional right to health, and more than 40% specify a right to medical care or services. The U.S. does neither.

Doc Talk

Rhinorrhoea: a runny nose. If it's a nosebleed, it's called epistaxis.

Phobia of the Week

Papyrophobia: fear of paper (If you're reading this in print, good for you.)

Food for Thought

Things we put in the stuff we eat.

Inulin is a common ingredient in yogurts, pasta and cereal bars. It's harvested from chicory root and used to add fiber to processed foods and creaminess to reduced-fat products. It may increase feelings of fullness. It's believed to have some beneficial prebiotic effects in the gastrointestinal system, but too much may overwhelm the gastrointestinal tract.

Best Medicine

Q: What does HMO stand for?

A: It derives from the phrase "Hey, Moe!" and is a concept pioneered by Dr. Moe Howard, who discovered that a patient could be made to forget about the pain in his foot if he were poked hard enough in the eyes. Modern practice replaces the physical finger poke with high-tech equivalents, such as voicemail, referral slips and appointments scheduled six months out. The results, however, are the same.


"The patient should be made to understand that he or she must take charge of his own life. Don't take your body to the doctor as if he were a repair shop." — Quentin Regestein

Medical History

This week in 1983, 62-year-old Barney C. Clark, the first recipient of a permanent artificial heart, died at the University of Utah Medical Center after 112 days with the device. Doctors later said Clark died due to massive circulatory collapse "resulting from a multitude of causes."

Ig Nobel Apprised

The Ig Nobel Prizes celebrate achievements that make people laugh and then think, a look at real science that's hard to take seriously and even harder to ignore.

In 2012, the Ig Nobel Prize in neuroscience went to a team of American scientists who demonstrated that with the use of complicated instruments and simple statistics, it was possible to detect meaningful brain activity anywhere, including in a dead salmon.

Sum Body

The color of our eyes is determined by two factors: inherited pigmentation of the iris and how light scatters within it. Though the range of hues of human eyes spans innumerable variations, there are some basic color descriptors. Divided into percentages of prevalence, they are:

79% brown

8-10% blue

5% amber or hazel

2% green

Less than 1% gray or red/violet

Fit to Be Tried

There are thousands of exercises, and you've only got one body, but that doesn't mean you can't try them all.

The wall sit sounds easy. It isn't — at least not after the first few moments. It's a good workout for legs and core muscles. Find an empty wall, and stand up against it. Slide your legs out and your back down so your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. It should look as if you're sitting in an imaginary chair with your back against the wall. Hold this position for at least 15 seconds, but work up to 30 seconds or a minute with time.

Curtain Calls

In 1999, Betty Stobbs, 67, of Durham, England, was killed while delivering a bale of hay to ravenous sheep. Then the sheep rushed Stobbs, who was on a motorcycle. She was knocked down a deep ravine. While she survived the fall, her motorcycle landed atop her, killing her instantly.

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: Mike_68 at Pixabay

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