To most people, giraffes are merely adorable, long-necked animals that rank near the top of a zoo visit or a photo-safari bucket list. But to a cardiovascular physiologist, there’s even more to love. Giraffes, it turns out, have solved a problem that kills millions of people every year: high blood pressure. Their solutions, only partly understood by scientists so far, involve pressurized organs, altered heart rhythms, blood storage — and the biological equivalent of support stockings.
It’s no secret that exercise makes your heart bigger in a healthy way, helping it to pump blood more efficiently and lessening the potential for heart failure. Figuring out a way to mimic the way exercise manages to do this could be an extremely beneficial way to treat certain types of heart conditions. A study out this week shows how a protein called cardiotrophin 1 might in fact do this: have the same positive effects on the heart, minus the actual exersise part.
In the future, you might not have to resort to exotic materials to create heart cells — you could just raid your grocery store’s produce section. Scientists have invented a process that turns spinach leaves into farms for functioning human heart cells. The team started by pumping a detergent solution through the spinach, stripping it of its plant cells and turning it into a ghostly shell made mostly of cellulose. After that, they cultured heart cells on the remaining structure, sending both fluids and microscopic beads through the vegetable’s now-empty veins in order to feed the new cells.
Getting an organ transplant isn’t simple. There simply aren’t enough organs available to accommodate everyone who needs one. In the US alone,there are over 121,000 people on the organ transplant waiting list, and an average of 22 people die every day due to lack of available transplant organs.
More and more evidence shows that the foods people eat can play a powerful role in heart health, affecting a number of different risk factors for heart disease.
A new device that can preserve the hearts of the recently-deceased might help people in need of a transplant. However, the technology is raising ethical questions among some doctors regarding declaring a patient dead.