Heart_mini_stem_web

Two hearts

As a general rule this news column reports on the natural, the sustainable, and the holistic things you can use or change in your own life to make it better, healthier, and more flourishing. There are some technological advances however that, while they may be out the individual person’s ability to implement, are so tantalising that they deserve exploration. One such announcement came recently when a researcher from George Washington University reported a new treatment for impaired blood flow; a second “heart”.

Admittedly the second heart is a fairly primitive one in that it just pumps in simple fashion but it is made from a person’s own stem cells and could help with problems like venous insufficiency.

Long-term venous insufficiency involves the veins having difficulty sending blood back from the legs to the heart. If the condition is chronic then it involves either partial blockage of the vein or blood leaking around the valves of the veins. Varicose veins and ulcers of the legs and ankles are just some of the symptoms of this widespread condition estimated to affect 20 to 30 per cent of people over the age of 50 in the Western world. The new research could be good news for people where the problem is valves that have ceased to work.

Using a patient’s own stem cells the researcher has developed a small “cuff” of heart muscles that surround the vein and pump rhythmically to push blood through the problem vein. The Beauty of the “second heart” is that since it is made from a person’s own stem cells there is no chance of rejection. The simplicity of this kind of solution also means that it is probably something that will be part of everyday treatment in the future. No doubt this is what Bono and U2 were envisaging when they sang “two hearts beat as one”.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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