27E93C3A-83B9-4595-91CE-57506165869F Created with sketchtool. The Check Up – Wikipedia, Kidneys, and Robo-Touch

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  Last updated October 23, 2017 at 10:33 am

The Check Up is a weekly feature highlighting some of the best, most fascinating, most important, or simply unmissable health, medical, and human stories from around the web. 

Let’s tackle the heavy stuff first. Take a deep breath before you dive into this article. It looks at America’s opioid crisis through the eyes of a medical examiner – the person whose job it is to cut upon dead people and figure out why they died. He’s overwhelmed by the amount of autopsies he’s been performing on victims of overdose, and his experience is physically and mentally exhausting. It’s an intense, heartbreaking but worthwhile read. If, like me, you’re a bit sensitive to stories from addicts themselves, this article is a good way to inform yourself without shying away from the realities of the problem.

Closer to home, recent research predicts that smoking related deaths for Indigenous Australians will rise over the next ten years – even though smoking rates in the demographic have declined. If current trends continue, the long-term outcomes are looking better – for instance, there has been a huge reduction in cardiovascular deaths. But things will get worse before they get better, as we’re about to see the health outcomes of smoking from its peak.

Whether you trust Wikipedia or not, millions of people all around the world use it as their first port-of-call when they’re learning about something new. Diseases are no exception, especially in times of a health crisis. For example, in 2014 the English language version of the Ebola page was viewed 89 million times. This has lead a group of scientists to call for doctors to take the lead in updating Wikipedia, and make it part of their jobs. Whether this is practical or not, I’m not sure – it seems like doctors are pretty busy as it is. But as a preventative health measure, it’s certainly cheap and easy.

Take a moment to appreciate your kidneys and all they do for you, and the fact that you have a spare! Even though kidneys are the overachievers of the organ world, when they fail they really fail – two million people across the world are being kept alive by dialysis right now.  This story has it all – the fascinating backstory of how dialysis was invented and industrialized, and the potential technology that could make it a thing of the past.

And finally, take a look at how robots with a sense of touch are built!

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About the Author

Casey Harrigan
Casey Harrigan (@caseyharri) is a Contributing Editor for The Body and Culture on Australia’s Science Channel. Her academic background is in science communication, and her professional background is in science and factual television. Don’t get her started talking about sci fi movies, comedy, interesting animal facts, or Beyonce because she will never stop.


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Science and technology is as much a part of our cultural fabric as art, music, theatre and literature. They play a significant role in our daily lives, yet, in a world dependent on science, we often take them for granted. Australia’s Science Channel believes every citizen has a right, and a responsibility, to be informed, and our mission is to create programs to bring that about.

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