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Annie-Xmas
03-22-2007, 10:08 AM
On "Bones" last night, they found a human corpse that had the bones removed :eek:

That got me to thinking: Say a baby was born without borns. Some sort of weird genetic birth defect. Could it survive?

Dunderman
03-22-2007, 10:10 AM
I'm guessing yes, but not comfortably. The pressure on the heart, lungs and other organs would be tremendous. Movement would be extremely difficult, is possible at all. The child would be much more vulnerable to injury than other children. I don't even want to think about what would happen to eyes without sockets.

Mangetout
03-22-2007, 10:15 AM
Artificial ventilation would be necessary - the lungs cannot function without the ribcage.
Also need somewhere to keep the bone marrow, or something that replaces its functions.

Szlater
03-22-2007, 10:20 AM
Artificial ventilation would be necessary

Probably need total parenteral nutrition (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_parenteral_nutrition) too.

It would be a pretty miserable life.

Blake
03-22-2007, 04:38 PM
No, it couldn't survive. As others have pointed out, it couldn't even breathe without ribs. If you did find some way to inflate the lungs then the pressure from both the air flow and the weight of the body itself would be crushing the spinal cord, and the brain itself would have absolutely no protection or support. Then of course we run into the problem that simply swallowing become impossible. The next problem beocmes the massive bedsores caused when someone is in such close contact with the bed, constantly.

Assuming that somehow a body could even develop to that level without bones, which it couldn't, and that it could be delivered, whichis doubtful, then life expectancy would be a few very painful weeks post partum at most.

Kythereia
03-22-2007, 04:49 PM
No, it couldn't survive. As others have pointed out, it couldn't even breathe without ribs. If you did find some way to inflate the lungs then the pressure from both the air flow and the weight of the body itself would be crushing the spinal cord, and the brain itself would have absolutely no protection or support.

With so much pressure exerted on the spinal cord, IANAD but I think it's a safe bet that the person would become at least paraplegic--most likely, full paralyzed.

It's been known to happen in localized cases, like cleidocranial dysplasia (complete absence of the collarbones; the fontanelles (soft spots) in a baby's skull either close up late or don't close at all). But a total lack of any bones... I have doubts the baby would even make it to term. :(

Pleonast
03-22-2007, 05:06 PM
Couldn't the body be suspended in a liquid? One in which the body would be neutrally buoyant, to relieve pressure. Oxygen could be delivered via another liquid, instead of air, through a pipe to help reduce the buoyancy of the lungs. Nutrition and waste could be also be transported via pipe.

It would be a very different lifestyle.

bouv
03-22-2007, 05:09 PM
I have doubts the baby would even make it to term. :(

Same here. No way it gets very far past the stage of development when it would normally start to get bones. Even if somehow it does come to term, I'm willing to bet the trauma of being born itself would kill it, either by crushing it's brain or snapping it's spinal cord. If born by c-section, it couldn't breath, couldn't feed, could injure organs merely by being handled and set down.

bouv
03-22-2007, 05:11 PM
It would be a very different lifestyle.

Not to sound mean or snarky, but it would be a very dead lifestyle. Bones are more than just structural support. Bone marrow makes blood cells, they serve as calcium deposits (calcium is needed for muscle contraction, among other things,) protect vital organs, etc...

Pleonast
03-22-2007, 05:31 PM
Originally Posted by bouv
Not to sound mean or snarky, but it would be a very dead lifestyle. Bones are more than just structural support. Bone marrow makes blood cells, they serve as calcium deposits (calcium is needed for muscle contraction, among other things,) protect vital organs, etc...Hmm, only a few more technical difficulties. :)

Does boneless necessarily imply marrowless? Probably depends on the cause of the bonelessness. Marrow is definitely a necessity, so any viable boneless human would have to have marrow.

The calcium problem can probably be worked around. It's not like the vat-human I'm describing is going to be doing much of any work. Other tissues have calcium and perhaps high-calcium nutrition would be enough to sustain the calcium balance.

I probably read too much science fiction.

RealityChuck
03-22-2007, 05:54 PM
Of course. (http://www.scifi.com/scifiction/classics/classics_archive/kersh/kersh1.html)

Mangetout
03-22-2007, 06:04 PM
...Then of course we run into the problem that simply swallowing become impossible...Peristalsis would be possible - as those muscles aren't anchored to bone, but that's only part of the process - I assume you're talking about the first part of the action, involving the tongue?

postcards
03-22-2007, 06:23 PM
Couldn't the body be suspended in a liquid? One in which the body would be neutrally buoyant, to relieve pressure. Oxygen could be delivered via another liquid, instead of air, through a pipe to help reduce the buoyancy of the lungs. Nutrition and waste could be also be transported via pipe.

It would be a very different lifestyle.
And handicapped bathroom stalls and parking spaces would be vastly different.

Blake
03-22-2007, 06:35 PM
With so much pressure exerted on the spinal cord, IANAD but I think it's a safe bet that the person would become at least paraplegic--most likely, full paralyzed.(

Iíd say thatís a safe bet. Remember the abdominal muscles are quite able to pull against each other. With no spine or ribs to keep form the muscles of the trunk would cause the body to fold up like an accordion. The spinal column would be perpetually distorted and compressed. It would belike a limb going to sleep, but permanent.

Couldn't the body be suspended in a liquid? One in which the body would be neutrally buoyant, to relieve pressure. Oxygen could be delivered via another liquid, instead of air, through a pipe to help reduce the buoyancy of the lungs. Nutrition and waste could be also be transported via pipe.

It would be a very different lifestyle.


Yes, a fantasy lifestyle. This isnít the real world you are describing.

How could you suspend boneless-chicken-man in liquid without drowning? Are you going to put hooks through the skin or what? You canít use straps since they will produce far more pressure than simply lying on a bed.

What other liquid can deliver oxygen without also delivering death? Experiments with perflurocarbons have shown that they flush away the surfactants needed to keep the lungs affixed to the pleura. Long term use = pnuemothorax.

And why would liquid make the problem better? If the issue of compressible gas distorting the spinal column is problematic then how can incompressible fluid not be far worse?

The calcium problem can probably be worked around. It's not like the vat-human I'm describing is going to be doing much of any work. Other tissues have calcium and perhaps high-calcium nutrition would be enough to sustain the calcium balance.

Not really. The key issue here is one of balance. Calcium levels arenít the problem, but keeping them regulated is. Without some way to take calcium out of circulation when required you simply canít regulate the pH of the body.

I assume you're talking about the first part of the action, involving the tongue?

Yep, the tongue and other muscles of the jaw are required to swallow. No jawbones, no swallowing.


I canít believe we are even giving this serious consideration. The human body needs bones. There are so many issues associated with having no support, no muscles attachment and no rigidity that life simply isnít possible. For instance, what exactly is stopping the entire CNS from simply ballooning uncontrollably? Normally the spine and skull act as a rigid box that keeps the CNS pressurized. With no box the only way t keep the pressure maintained is to keep increasing the volume of fluid as the connective tissue deforms. The whole process would run away and the childís head would look like a beach ball within a week.

Vision of Love
03-23-2007, 12:55 AM
Would the infant even survive a natural vaginal birth? I'd guess it would be crushed to death in the process.

Even if it was a birth by C-section, it would probably be a very deformed, contorted baby coming out. :( It gets pretty tight in the womb.

CalMeacham
03-23-2007, 07:15 AM
Every now and then this idea percolates up in a not-very-serious piece of fiction or speculatioon (as in the instance above). It was suggested in an episode of Night gallery, right down to a sluglike trail the boneless guy left (but it all turned out to be a hoax). In the movie The Silicates the creatures suck out the bones (although the people then die). I had an illustrated drawing course that asked rhetorically what we'd be like without skeletons (preparatory to showing how to draw their structure), that suggested we'd be like "a bag if cats" without one (and illustrated the point with a drawing of a bagful of cats). to tell the truth, a bagfull of cats would have more structure. "Without it, we would collapse, like a Bunch..Of..BROCCOLI!" (Even though Fronkonsteen was referring to the action of the nervous system, but it seems appropriate).


I have to go along with the "we'd die without it (and in short order) camp. Breathing would be most immediate, but there's plenty of other stuff that would quickly go awry without that solid framework, starting with the brain, which hasn't got a huge amount of structural stability on its own. I understand they add things to "firm" the brain , when removed for study and dissection.

kanicbird
03-23-2007, 07:33 AM
Couldn't the body be suspended in a liquid? One in which the body would be neutrally buoyant, to relieve pressure. Oxygen could be delivered via another liquid, instead of air, through a pipe to help reduce the buoyancy of the lungs. Nutrition and waste could be also be transported via pipe.

Sort of like a fetus, so yes a human can survive a long time totally in a liquid in this early form. How much longer can one survive past 9 months I don't know.

bordelond
03-23-2007, 08:21 AM
It's been known to happen in localized cases, like cleidocranial dysplasia (complete absence of the collarbones; the fontanelles (soft spots) in a baby's skull either close up late or don't close at all). But a total lack of any bones... I have doubts the baby would even make it to term. :(
Another localized skeletal defect in fetuses is the lack of skull formation. A family friend lost her baby midway through pregnancy due to this disorder. :(

Pleonast
03-24-2007, 01:32 PM
Yes, a fantasy lifestyle. This isnít the real world you are describing.Well, there's fantasy meaning "violates basic laws of the universe and so is forever impossible" and fantasy meaning "we don't currently have the technology, but no reason in principle we couldn't eventually". I think boneless humans falls in the second category.

WarmNPrickly
03-24-2007, 01:41 PM
God this thread is disgusting. What if we were to gradually replace each bone in the body with an artificial equivalent (thinking Steve Austin here). Could we substitute something else for calcium regulation and bone marrow?

Saint Cad
03-24-2007, 06:26 PM
Or how about a skeleton made of cartlidge?

lizardling
03-24-2007, 10:49 PM
I'm thinking Miles Vorkosigan who was born with bones that had the texture of chalk -- and he did wind up having a lot of his bones replaced with artificial equivalents. While he wasn't a jellyfish, he was pretty close to being one when he was younger. But the books didn't go into a lot of detail about bone function other than the architectural requirements - probably because the bones were still there, just really soft.

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