Friday, 5 August 2011

How to measure jaundice in Homer Simpson

Homer Simpson Drinking Quotes

In a previous post I talked about making better moonshine by testing the level of methanol.  Many months before I also I commented on the surface properties of bile which are increased after drinking alcohol.  If you drink alcohol many different effects occur in your body as a result.  One of the ways our body detoxifies alcohol and other toxins is with the liver.  Drinking excessively causes massive trauma to the liver causing it to not function properly.  Increased bilirubin (1.5 mg/dL ) in the blood makes the condition hyperbilirubinemia.  The bilirubin is a yellow breakdown product of normal heme catabolism.  This catabolism of the heme in redblood cells is done in the liver.  Also you can see the yellow bilirubin after you get a bruise.  However, with the liver damaged this product goes to the blood then to extracellular fluids like conjuntival membranes over the sclerae (whites of the eyes) and mucous membranes which causes the yellowish pigmentation of the skin.

Jaundice comes from the French word jaune, meaning yellow.  Homer Simpson is yellow.  He drinks excessively which may cause liver failure leading to jaundice.  How could Homer tell if he had jaundice?  If his eyes were yellow this might possibly tell that he has jaundice.  A more diagnostic test would be to use a tensiometer.  If Homer goes to Dr. Heibert and takes a urine test Dr. Heibert could do a simple diagnostic test with a tensiometer to test the surface tension of the urine.  Normal urine has a surface tension of about 66 dynes/cm but if bile is present (a test for jaundice), it drops to about 55 dynes/cm.  This is a simple diagnostic test that does not require expensive lab equipment and can be done in the field for example at small clinics.  Doh!