Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 10th 2014 Contents B28
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, April 10, 2014
An experimental "mini heart" could help people
with a medical condition that causes blood to pool
in their veins by pumping their blood through the
vessels and back to the heart, researchers say.
The mini hearts are tiny pumps, consisting of a
cuff of heart muscle cells. Once implanted to surround
a vein, they could contract rhythmically, squeezing
blood through the vessel. A patient s own stem cells
could be used to make the mini heart, decreasing the
chances of tissue rejection, researchers say.
"We can create a simple version of the heart, outside
a person s own heart," and by placing it in the lower
extremities, significantly improve blood flow through
a person s veins, said Narine Sarvazyan, a pharma-
cologist and physiologist at George Washington Uni-
versity in Washington, DC, who led the research pub-
lished in the February 4 issue of the Journal of
Cardiovascular Pharmacology and Therapeutics.
In healthy veins, valves keep blood flowing in one
direction, preventing blood from pooling and forming
blood clots. But in people with vein disease, these
valves stop functioning. About 25 per cent of adults
have varicose veins---twisted or swollen veins near
the skin s surface---and six per cent have a more serious
version of the disease, according to studies.
Vein disease can lead to inflammation, ulcers, leg
amputation and even death.
Although some treatments exist for diseased veins
near the skin s surface, there are no effective treatments
for problems with deep veins, Sarvazyan told Live
Other researchers have sought to repair damaged
hearts by growing beating heart tissue in the lab, and
implanting it into the heart itself. In contrast, Sar-
vazyan s team took pieces of heart tissue and wrapped
the pieces around veins.
To prevent the risk that the transplanted tissue will
be rejected by the body, the team plans to grow the
mini hearts using adult stem cells, which have the
potential to transform into any type of tissue, from
the patients themselves.
'Mini hearts' could pump blood through faulty veins
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
The labels on food packages may soon include
the amount of potassium in the food. That s because
the Food and Drug Administration s proposed
changes to nutrition labels, announced on February
27, includes a requirement for listing potassium con-
Some Americans aren t getting enough potassium,
a mineral that is beneficial in lowering blood pressure,
in their diets, the FDA said in a statement. This pro-
posed label change is one of many, but if the FDA is
recognising the need for increased dietary potassium,
it may be time for us all to sit up and take notice.
How important is this mineral? Well, a 2011 study
in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine found
that Americans who eat a diet low in potassium were
about twice as likely to die from a heart attack, com-
pared with those whose diets have high levels of the
mineral. The study doesn t prove cause-and-effect,
but it does suggest a role of potassium in health.
The same study also found that people who were
deficient in potassium were about 50 per cent more
likely to die from any cause during the length of the
Okay, so we know it s important to get enough
potassium. Now, how do we go about doing so?
Reduce sodium intake. Sodium and potassium per-
form many of the same functions in the body, but
they do so in very different ways.
It s important to maintain a balance between sodium
and potassium in the diet, because sodium intake can
affect potassium excretion, and vice versa. People
who reduce their sodium consumption and increase
their potassium intake benefit from improved blood
pressure, and reduce their risk for developing other
serious health problems, according to information
from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Eat a sweet potato. You may have expected me to
say banana, right? Truth is, bananas may have a better
reputation for their potassium content than they
deserve. Sweet potatoes actually have more potassium,
with a whopping 694 milligrammes per serving.
Avoid processed foods. Processed foods tend to be
high in sodium, and low in potassium. On the other
hand, homemade meals are usually lower in sodium
and higher in potassium. If you d like to make drastic
changes to your potassium intake, consider buying
more fresh produce and making meals at home.
A rhythmically contracting cuff made of cardiac muscle cells surrounds the vein
acting as a "mini heart" to pump blood through the veins.
How to get enough
potassium in your diet
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