Stories tagged heart

Smoking bans reduce heart disease risk
Smoking bans reduce heart disease riskCourtesy Ed Yourdon
A new study by the European Society of Cardiologists shows a consistent decline in heart disease in several locations where smoking bans have been put in place. The study's results appear in Circulation, the journal for the American Heart Association.

Here's the weird organ transplant story of today. A heart, maybe a human one, was found on the floor of a car wash in Michigan. Investigators are trying to determine if it's a human heart or from another species. No word on if Dick Cheney had recently washed his car there.


Music for the heart
Music for the heartCourtesy Public domain
That's right - the Bee Gees, the Brothers Gibb, those high-pitched Kings of the Disco Era! Well, to tell the truth it's not really the Bee Gees, per se, but rather one of their songs - the classic (and in this case appropriate) "Stayin' Alive". Researchers at Illinois College of Medicine have determined that the number of beats in that particular song (103 per minute) is almost exactly the number you want to count out while performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on someone. Bottom line: if you have that song looping through your head while you're doing heart compressions on a heart attack sufferer, you'll keep the recommended per minute rhythm and triple the victim's chances of survival. Read more here.


Working better and better: Statistically, our hearts are getting better and better. The rate of heart-related deaths is dropping faster than goals set by by national health organizations.
Working better and better: Statistically, our hearts are getting better and better. The rate of heart-related deaths is dropping faster than goals set by by national health organizations.Courtesy wikipedia
Here’s something to strengthen your heart in advance of Valentine’s Day. Nationally, our rates for heart attack and stroke deaths have dropped faster than the pace national health organizations hope we’ll be at in 2010.

Over the period from 1999 to 2005, heart disease deaths dropped 25.8 percent while stroke deaths dropped 24.4 percent. That means that 160,000 people are still alive today who statistically would have likely died from heart and circulation trouble in the past year. If those rates continue, we’ll have an extra 240,000 people living a year from now who in past years would have died from heart ailments.

However, while our hearts are getting healthier epidemics continue on the diabetes and obesity fronts. And health problems associated with those factors could offset the decreased deaths from heart troubles.

The National Center for Health Statistics released the analysis of these health findings, but didn’t issue any causes for the changing mortality rates. So I put it to you, why are people having better heart health? Better diets? Decreased smoking? More exercise? Share your thoughts here with Science Buzz readers.


Decellularization: A rat heart as the cells are removed (left three images) and replaced (right two images) over time.
Decellularization: A rat heart as the cells are removed (left three images) and replaced (right two images) over time.Courtesy Thomas Matthiesen, University of Minnesota

Science fiction?
Did you know that nearly 5 million people live with heart failure? More surprisingly, approximately 50,000 United States patients die annually waiting for a donor heart.

University of Minnesota researchers recently announced they have created a beating heart in the laboratory. It sounds like science fiction, but it is a real medical breakthrough. The researchers removed the tissue from a dead rat heart and replaced it with living cells from newborn rats. With the help of electrical signals, the entire heart began to beat.

"Ghost hearts"
The researchers used a detergent to remove the cells from the rat hearts. This left behind only the nonliving fibers that give the heart its shape. The result was a white, rubbery, 3-D “skeleton”. This structure, called the extracellular matrix, allows cells to attach and grow into tissue, and gives the heart muscle something to pull against. The researchers injected cells from newborn rats into the left ventricle and pumped oxygen and nutrients through the structure of blood vessels. They helped the process by sending electrical signals through the new tissue. In eight days, the hearts were pumping – some continued beating for 40 days.

The supply of donor organs is limited and the risks for infection or rejection of the transplanted organ can be high. If the technique is perfected, doctors may be able to use patients’ own stem cells to recellularize a donor heart.

The next steps
The University of Minnesota research team has successfully decellularized pig hearts, and hopes that other types of organs can be created in the future.


Dead heart transformed into a living heart

Tissue engineering has allowed a dead rat heart to be stripped of its cellular material, then after injecting the remaining scaffold material with with new cardiac cells, the cells organized themselves until the heart became alive.

A "crazy idea" at the University of Minnesota that could not get federal funding yielded "unbelievable" results after getting funding from the University of Minnesota and from the Medtronic Research Foundation.

New source for replacement organs

The accomplishment gave a significant boost to medicine’s dream of growing human organs to replace damaged ones. Organ transplants usually require replacement organs that fulfill extreme compatibility issues. By using the patients own cells in the rebuilt organs scientists hope to eliminate the need for patients to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives.

Growing human hearts at least 10 years away, if ever

The next step will be to use these techniques on pig hearts. Pig hearts are similar enough to a humans that parts from them have already been used in humans.

"Although this is only a first step requiring considerable follow-up development, the study nevertheless represents an exciting breakthrough that will eventually make the prospect of repairing damaged hearts a reality and will also be an approach that can be extended to other organs." Dr Jon Frampton Wellcome Trust Senior Fellow at the University of Birmingham

Source articles
New York Times
BBC News
USA Today
Nature Medicine journal's Perfusion-decellularized matrix: using nature's platform to engineer a bioartificial heart (abstract)

A European study has found that women taking oral contraceptives (birth control pills) are at a higher risk for blood clots and heart disease.

A recent study in Poland showed that a flu shot can significantly reduce the risk of death for people with coronary artery disease. Dr. Arnold Monto, professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan, said,

"We know that people die of flu who have underlying cardiopulmonary disease. It's only logical that if you are able to prevent flu with vaccine, you can prevent these deaths."

On May 11, 1987, doctors in Baltimore transplanted the heart and lungs of an auto accident victim to a patient who gave up his own heart to a second recipient. Clinton House, the nation's first living heart donor, died 14 months later. Want to know more about organ or body donation? Check the Buzz next week for a new feature!