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Every day, it has been estimated, between one and five of your cells turns cancerous and your immune system captures and kills them. Think of that
The human body is often likened to a high-performance machine.
But it is so much more than that. It works 24 hours a day for decades without (for the most part) needing regular servicing or the installation of spare parts.
It runs on water and a few organic compounds, is soft and rather lovely, reproduces itself with enthusiasm, makes jokes, feels affection and appreciates a red sunset.
How many machines do you know that can do any of that? There is no question about it. You are truly a wonder.
An ache, a twinge of indigestion, the odd bruise or pimple is about all that in the normal course of things announces our imperfectability.
There are thousands of things that can kill us – slightly more than 8,000, according to the World Health Organisation – and we escape every one of them but one. For most of us, that’s not a bad deal.
‘Feel this,’ the doctor is saying to me. We are in the dissecting room at the University of Nottingham Medical School and Dr Ben Ollivere is directing my attention to a piece of detached tubing in the upper chest of a male body.
I am struck by a powerful thought. In the dissecting room, the human body is no longer a wondrous piece of precision engineering. It’s meat.
Ben instructs me to stick my gloved finger into the interior of the tube and feel it. It is stiff, like uncooked pasta.
I have no idea what it is. ‘The aorta,’ Ben says, with what seems like pride.
I am frankly amazed. ‘So that’s the heart?’ I say, indicating the shapeless lump beside it.