Do you know why Rudolph the Reindeer has a red nose? Ask your Pathologist!

Rudolph the rednosed reindeer had a very shiny nose. And if you ever saw it, you would even say it glows.”


Everyone has seen pictures of reindeer, for they are the animals that are said to draw the sledge of Father Christmas. Reindeers are protected from the cold by a thick skin and two coats of hair, a long coarse outer one and a fine, woolly inner one. The colour of the outer coat changes from dark brown in summer to a lighter brown in winter.

Reindeer in Norwegian arctic region has a distinct pink coloration at tip of nose.

Can Ince et al studied the functional morphology of the nasal microcirculation in humans in comparison with reindeers. (Why Rudolph’s nose is red: observational study –BMJ 2012;345:e8311).


The nasal microcirculation has important roles such as heating, filtering, and humidifying inhaled air, controlling inflammation, transporting fluid for mucous formation, and delivering oxygen to the nasal parenchymal cells.

The pathophysiology of many nasal conditions, such as congestion and epistaxis, is based on the regulatory mechanisms of the microcirculation.

Nasal mucosa has an important part in the uptake of drugs and responses to allergens.

The introduction of hand-held intravital video microscopes has helped in direct visualisation of the nasal microcirculation in humans.

These imaging instruments have had a special impact on intensive care medicine as they have shown the nasal microcirculation to be the most sensitive haemodynamic indicator of outcome and response to treatment. These instruments have also identified the microcirculation as a key factor in a wide range of other diseases, including diagnostic support and treatment responses in oncology.


Using the technique of hand-held vital video microscopy the authors characterised the microvasculature of the human nose and applied the same technique to reindeer for comparative purposes.

Intravital video microscope showed  complex architecture of the nasal microcirculation, including the kinetics of flowing red blood cells, and provided new insights into the adaptive behaviour of vascular structures under varying clinical conditions.

An interesting finding was the presence of gland-like structures in the nasal mucosa. The  explanation for the function of these circular vascular structures is mucous secretion. These structures are scattered throughout the nose and maintain an optimal nasal climate during humid weather and extremes of temperature as well as being responsible for fluid transport and acting as a barrier.


The nasal microcirculation in humans consists of hairpin-like vessels, microcirculatory networks, and crypt-like structures surrounded by capillaries.

“The microcirculation of the nasal mucosa in reindeer is richly vascularised and 25% denser than that in humans. These factors explain why the nose of Rudolph, the lead flying reindeer employed by Santa Claus to pull his sleigh, is red and well adapted to carrying out his duties in extreme temperatures. ”




Why Rudolph’s nose is red: observational study –BMJ 2012;345:e8311
 clipart courtesy: ;  cartoon:


Standing under the Mistletoe? It is an anticancer agent


What does Christmas remind you of ? Mistletoe, holly, Christmas tree, Christmas pudding, and so many wonderful things. When the heart is happy, Christmas can never be dull. It’s not just about feasting and fun. It’s also a time for happy reunions with family and friends. 

holly     holly

Mistletoe is known to bring happiness, safety, and good fortune as long as it does not touch the ground. This is probably why it is hung up in homes in Christmas time and is supposed to bring luck to those who kiss under it.

Extracts and preparations from the parasitic plant mistletoe (Viscum album ) have been used in the treatment of cancer for decades.

First recorded use in oncology was by the Dutch physician Ita Wegman who used a mistletoe extraction for the treatment of a breast cancer patient following a recommendation by Rudolf Steiner in 1917.


Extracts from the plant are used in adjuvant cancer therapy mainly as injections.

The most important active agents are lectins, which have cytotoxic and immunostimulating effects.

Mistletoe extracts have low toxicity. No fatal side effects have been reported.

Breast cancer is among the most frequent types of cancer in women worldwide. Current conventional treatment options are accompanied by side effects. Mistletoe is amongst the important herbal medicines traditionally used as complementary remedies.

The benefit of mistletoe in laryngeal cancer treatment requires further investigation, and might be considered in selected patients, as an adjunct or when other conventional therapies have failed.


Mistletoes of the Loranthaceae and Viscaceae are hemiparasitic plants and their preparations in the form of injectable extracts, infusions, tinctures, fluid extracts or tea bags are widely used in various cultures in almost every continent to treat or manage various health problems including hypertension, diabetes mellitus, inflammatory conditions, irregular menstruations, menopause, epilepsy, arthritis, cancer, etc.

In Germany mistletoe extract is one of the most commonly used complementary therapeutic strategies in the treatment of urological tumours.

Clinical effects of mistletoe products include improvement of quality of life, reduction of side effects from chemotherapy and radiation, and possibly increased survival.

In central Europe, white-berried mistletoe (Viscum album) preparations not only are among the most common types of treatments used in integrative medicine but also have been among of the most commonly prescribed cancer treatments in Germany per se in 2010.

By 2017, mistletoe preparations will have been used in the treatment of cancer patients for 100 years.

holly    holly

Further reading

  • [Mistletoe in the treatment of cancer].
  • Preclinical and clinical effects of mistletoe against breast cancer
  • [Mistletoe (Viscum album) preparations: an optional drug for cancer patients?].
  • Mistletoe: from basic research to clinical outcomes in cancer and other indications
  • clipart courtesy :

Holiday Gifts for Pathologists – Pathology Infographic


“Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts.”  – Janice Maeditere

Christmas is one of the most widely and joyfully celebrated festivals in  India. Services are held in churches and cathedrals all over the country.  Every year I decorate my little Christmas tree.  However, I don’t enjoy shopping and keep away from crowded malls.

Do you still enjoy opening gifts during Christmas?

Here are some gift ideas for geeky pathologists with a good sense of humour.


Clipart coutesy :



Santa Claus has the right idea – visit people only once a year. – Victor Borge