Interesting Stuff About the (Literal) Human Heart
October 29, 2013 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Researching the human heart for an essay. The real heart. not the metaphorical one. I'm having trouble finding interesting articles online that go beyond 10 FACTS ABOUT THE HEART-type-things that get repetitive. I have already done a good bit of research into transplant history and fetal heart development, and I have a story about NASA growing cardiac cells in a bioreactor. But I still need more! Can you either tell me interesting true stuff or link me to it?
posted by mermaidcafe to Science & Nature (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Have you used Google Scholar for your search?
posted by DarlingBri at 12:03 PM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can grow new collateral vessels after major arteries are blocked. Or maybe it is that you can grow them and make them bigger/better with exercise and then if you do have a blocked artery, you have a better chance of survival due to the collaterals.

I'm sure there are more technical and official articles out there, but this brief one explains it pretty well:

This one addresses it too.
posted by AllieTessKipp at 12:13 PM on October 29, 2013

Well, I've been doing some research in to the physiology of heartbreak and grief. This brief NYT blog post might spark some thought, set you googling.
posted by thinkpiece at 1:10 PM on October 29, 2013

Just had a (thankfully fake) heart scare. They EKGed me for a day, and took multiple blood samples. I learned: there are "heart enzymes" that are specific to necrosis of heart tissue, which they can test for.

Not much, but there ya go.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:11 PM on October 29, 2013

This pioneering heart failure surgery was in the news very recently.
posted by fearnothing at 1:15 PM on October 29, 2013

Check out heart medical device companies like Zoll, which makes heart defibrillators. In order to sell their products, they post interesting articles on how the heart works, such as this one.
posted by Melismata at 1:22 PM on October 29, 2013

Also, there's lots of resources at the American Heart Association web site.
posted by Melismata at 1:25 PM on October 29, 2013

I'm fascinated by Ventricular Assist Devices, which function to supplement cardiac output in cases of heart failure. I am a Paramedic and encounter them (still rarely) in the field. Some models use a pump-type mechanism, but more recent models drive the blood using a rotary screw, so when you examine the patient, 1) listening the their chest is something like placing your stethoscope against a running refrigerator, 2) they have no palpable pulse, which feels incredibly weird, and 3) because they lack a pulse wave, a lot of medical equipment used to monitor vital signs (including blood pressure monitors and pulse oxygenation probes) doesn't work on them.
posted by itstheclamsname at 1:32 PM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

The fetal circulation is fascinating: they all have a hole between two halves of the heart, which closes in about 70% of people after birth (foramen ovale), as well as an extra vessel which then becomes a ligament (patent ductus arteriosus) in most people.
posted by quercus23 at 4:15 PM on October 29, 2013

The human heart has several redundant systems. The natural primary pacemaker, known as the SA node is located in the right atrium. It usually has a rate of 60-100 beats per minute. If an electrical impulse is not started in the atria within a certain amount of time, the secondary pacemaker, known as the AV node kicks in. This is a junctional rhythm usually with a speed of 40-60 beats per minute. Picture the AV node as being the electrical junction box between the upper and lower sections of the heart. If the ventricles fail to receive an electrical impulse from the AV node they will fire on their own, albeit at a much slower rate (20 to 40 beats a minute).

Isn't that cool! Your heart has three separate systems to initiate an electrical impulse to cause the heart to beat.
posted by JujuB at 1:42 AM on October 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

A physical blow to the chest can disrupt the normal heart rhythm or restore a disrupted one.
posted by dephlogisticated at 3:04 PM on October 30, 2013

The Wellcome Collection had an exhibition on The Heart a few years ago, with a nice image gallery and a video of open heart surgery with commentary by the surgeon.
posted by verstegan at 2:18 AM on October 31, 2013

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