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← Medicine: Charming bowels (Science Slam Berlin)

Giulia Enders, Science Slam Berlin, 5. March 2012

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Showing Revision 27 created 05/20/2014 by sluggish bee.

  1. Welcome to our next participant.
  2. Her name is Giulia Enders.
  3. She studies at the Goethe University
    in Frankfurt.
  4. Applause to Giulia Enders.

  5. The next 10 minutes are yours!
  6. (Applause)
  7. Okay, I study medicine --

  8. (Cheers)
  9. -- yes, exactly.
  10. And studying medicine
    really comes in handy
  11. when i'm having coffee
    and tea with my aunties.
  12. Because usually they ask you
    what you study.
  13. And whereas my sister needs
    half an hour to explain
  14. what Communication Design is,
  15. I can just say:
  16. medicine.
  17. (Laughter)
  18. And my aunties just look at me
    all happy and satisfied.
  19. (Laughter) (Applause)
  20. It is nice, but it lasts only 30 seconds,

  21. and then the usual question:
  22. What field of medicine
    are you going to specialize in?
  23. And then I must confess:
  24. I have been crazy about the digestive tract
    since my first semester.
  25. It began with the anus,
    and now I'm hooked to it!
  26. (Laughter) (Applause)
  27. Suddenly all the enthusiasm trickles away,

  28. usually there ensues an awkward silence.
  29. And the next question comes
    from the far corner of the room:
  30. And what is Communication Design good for?
  31. (Laughter)
  32. It is a pity, because the bowels
    are very charming.

  33. (Laughter)
  34. I'm not sure what my aunties think.
  35. But I suspect they think
    it's about tons of poop
  36. (Laughter)
  37. in all shapes and sizes
  38. or about other people's excrements
  39. (Laughter)
  40. or about obscure cleansing methods
  41. that make us walk like this
    out of doctor's room
  42. or internet videos that are so graphic
  43. that it's quite enough to watch
    other people's reaction to them.
  44. Even science can find reasons

  45. to hate the bowel.
  46. But these are also the very reasons
    why the bowel is so fascinating:
  47. It's 100 times larger
    then the area of the skin.
  48. Just think of hundred Giulias
    standing here on this stage.
  49. Such a thin tube,

  50. with so much immune system inside,
  51. so many hormones produced,
  52. 100 trillion gut bacteria,
  53. that's the number of humans
    times the number of humans
  54. times two.
  55. The gut has such a completely
    independent nervous system
  56. that if I cut out a piece and tap on it
  57. it would just mumble a friendly reply.
  58. (Laughter)
  59. It's very complex
    and science is afraid of it,

  60. which is understandable,
  61. but my grandmother says
    that if you really like something,
  62. even if it is overwhelming
    in the beginning,
  63. you should approach it step by step,
  64. and then even if you step in a puddle,
  65. only one foot gets wet.
  66. (Laughter) (Applause)
  67. Let's begin. Here's the esophagus.

  68. It makes powerful movements
    and pushes the food downward.
  69. It falls into the stomach,
  70. which cradles and rocks it a bit,
  71. and feeds it into the small intestine,
  72. where it's sort of magically kneaded,
  73. diminishing in bulk during the process,
  74. then it passes through the colon
  75. and comes out from the anus,
    it all sounds so simple.
  76. But if we focus on a single process --

  77. -- I go for the anus --
  78. then we realize it's a bit more complex
    than expected.
  79. I actually didn't pick
    this subject on my own
  80. rather my roommate asked me:
  81. Giulia, you study medicine:
  82. How does pooping work?
  83. (Laughter)
  84. I have noticed that the anus
    is actually very communicative.

  85. It's an intermediate between
    two worlds of consciousness.
  86. Here's an internal sphincter
  87. and here's an external anal sphincter.
  88. We know the external one very well.
  89. Let's say: A - O - A - O

  90. Audience: A - O - A - O
  91. I meant with your anus.
  92. (Laughter)
  93. Probably many are doing it right now,
    we just don't see it.
  94. So, you see we can do it.
  95. If I say, now do the same --
  96. (Laughter)
  97. If I say, now do the same
    with your internal sphincter --
  98. -- it's more difficult.
  99. (Laughter)
  100. Perhaps somebody managed...
  101. But we can see there's a difference.
  102. It's not under our command.
  103. Let's take a look at the process:

  104. when digested food arrives
    at the internal sphincter,
  105. it opens up and lets a little morsel
    pass through for testing.
  106. (Laughter)
  107. And there are sensor cells
    in between the two sphincters.
  108. These cells analyze
    whether it is solid or gaseous
  109. and notify the brain.
  110. (Laughter)
  111. And then the brain realizes:
  112. ah, I must poop.
  113. (Laughter)
  114. And the brain does what it's good at:

  115. It informs us of our surroundings.
  116. It might say, for example:
  117. well, I have looked,
  118. (Laughter)
  119. we are at the Science Slam right now,
  120. perhaps some gas is all right,
  121. if you let it pass very silently,
  122. but something solid
    would not be so good.
  123. (Laughter)
  124. So they unite their efforts
    and push it back in
  125. (Laughter)
  126. it goes back in the queue,
  127. but it has to come out, eventually.
  128. But when we are at home,
    with nothing better to do,
  129. then -- free to go!
  130. (Laughter) (Applause)
  131. The anus is just the tip of the iceberg.

  132. Auntie 1: What did she say?
  133. Auntie 2: I think she said that the anus
    is just the tip of the iceberg.
  134. The anus is really
    just the tip of the iceberg.

  135. There are 2 cm that we perceive
    and that we can control
  136. and the whole rest --
  137. -- if we want to know what happens there
  138. we need to look at the border area.
  139. So we chose something which is
    both unconscious and conscious.
  140. There are 7 basic emotions
    that show on the face,

  141. they are same for all the people worldwide,
    in all cultures,
  142. here are 3 of them,
  143. fear,
  144. joy,
  145. sadness.
  146. These basic emotions show in our faces
    when we feel them
  147. and in the first split second
    we cannot suppress them.
  148. That reminds us a bit
    of our internal sphincter,
  149. which we cannot control
    consciously either,
  150. and that's not a far fetched comparison.
  151. For when we were little embryological
    heaps of cells in the womb
  152. there wasn't much of a face --
  153. - there was just the front opening
    of the intestinal tube.
  154. And finally it was decided:
    O.K., let's create a face around it,
  155. seems like people like it,
  156. so it was a part of this
    unconscious tube of muscle
  157. which is why we don't have perfect control
    over our facial expression.
  158. We can control our arm any time,
    but not our mimics.
  159. That brings up the question
    what the bowel does with all these emotions,
  160. if it feels fear,
  161. if it can laugh
  162. or be sad.
  163. And there we are touching
    on the deeper layers of the iceberg

  164. on the subconsciousness,
  165. and people start arguing,
  166. because many people believe that the bowels
    have no influence on our emotions,
  167. that they're just a bunch of cells,
  168. and the brain, the DNA and the genes
    are the cause of our feelings.
  169. So, there are two basic viewpoints:

  170. One being that the brain
    decides on an emotion
  171. and tells all other organs what to do,
  172. and the other being that the gut
    is also involved in our emotions,
  173. thoughts, and perhaps even our behavior.
  174. So let's just take something

  175. which has no connection
    with our genes and our DNA:
  176. this huge gut flora.
  177. So we have this whole population of bacteria
    inside of us,
  178. which can weigh up to 2 kg,
    which would be quite normal,
  179. and it's a collection of things,
    decisions, what we have eaten
  180. and the environment that surrounds us,
  181. our very own Pokemon collection
    of intestinal bacteria.
  182. I'd like to introduce you to all of them,

  183. but 60% of them we don't even know at all
  184. since we cannot cultivate them,
  185. they just like it so much in our gut,
  186. that we can't simply
    observe them in a Petri dish.
  187. But since they do have an influence,

  188. scientists began to research them
    intensively in the last years.
  189. Some basic things
    were already known before:
  190. they train our immune system,
  191. our blood type is determined
    by this training and influence,
  192. if we have really bad ones
    then we get bad diarrhea.
  193. But what about the discreet ones

  194. quietly doing their job all day long?
  195. So many different types operating
    in a huge variety of ways.
  196. What is their influence?
  197. And so we have another Babel,

  198. which is my passion,
  199. and about which we start
    asking ourselves many questions:
  200. If I have certain gut bacteria,
  201. will I get fatter than others even though
    I eat the same food as them?
  202. Can I become depressed
    because of some kinds of gut bacteria?
  203. Do some gut bugs protect me from cancer
  204. while others promote it?
  205. And most of these questions
    are getting answered positively.

  206. And this field is so interesting,

  207. it's constantly on my mind.
  208. I have been in neuroscience in Frankfurt
    for the last half a year,
  209. and we are doing experiments
    with endogenous proteins
  210. trying to find out whether they protect
    or harm nerve cells
  211. but I keep thinking, I want to do this
    with proteins from gut bacteria!
  212. They did a study with a truly
    amazing outcome:

  213. The bowels [of mice] were colonized
    with certain bacteria
  214. and then under conditions of stress,
  215. when the gut gets leaky,
  216. they developed memory lapses
    of 10 to 30 days.

  217. With simultaneous doses of probiotics --
    [no memory loss].
  218. And so I wanted to know:
    O.K., how's that?
  219. And other questions
    which I keep carrying around.

  220. There is almost no research being done
    on this subject in Germany,
  221. and I really want to promote this.
  222. That's why I hope you got something out of this,

  223. for example that the anus is communicative,
  224. if you see a beautiful lady smiling
    it's all right to think of her digestive tract,
  225. (Laughter)
  226. the gut is very close to the people,
    with a lot of private property,
  227. you all have your own gut population,
    take good care of it,
  228. I hope you are more fond of it now,
  229. some politicians might even
    start fearing its competition,
  230. I hope the ladies are happier now,

  231. Thank you all for listening
    and thanks to my sister,

  232. because she made this possible
    with communication design!
  233. (Applause)
  234. Giulia Enders!

  235. (Applause)
  236. -- easy, isn't it?
  237. So let's give today's winner

  238. some more of our time and attention:
  239. a short scientific encore!
  240. So you have the last word!
  241. How nice, how unusual...

  242. I have something to share
    which I always forget,
  243. and actually it's quite cool,
  244. I have told you about those sensor cells,
  245. that distinguish between
    gaseous and solid,
  246. but there is a state of matter
    which is missing -- liquid,
  247. it is always a bit of an awkward topic
    for the audience,
  248. but perhaps some of
    you are familiar with this:
  249. you have diarrhea, you feel you have to fart,
    do you end up with your pants full?
  250. Your gut can't distinguish liquid from gas,
    so it just takes its chances!
  251. That was it!
  252. (Laughter) (Applause)

  253. I have forgotten it in Freiburg already,
    I always forget it...