Heart vessel anatomy revealed in stunning new study
From the heart to the liver to the heart valves, vessels can function like a computer and control the flow of blood through the body.
But in a new study, scientists have shown that the organs of the body can also function like computer systems.
It is this insight that allowed the team to understand how heart cells in the brain, spinal cord and liver function.
Dr Daniel Fuchs, a lecturer in biomechanics at the University of Exeter, and his colleagues at Imperial College London used a machine learning technique to analyse the structure of blood vessels in the human body.
“Our work has revealed new insights into how the heart works, in particular, how the body manages blood supply to different parts of the brain,” he said.
Dr Fuchs said it was not possible to understand the brain and heart at the same time because there was no way to measure the brain in real time, let alone the heart.
“The brain is just a computer, it has to be managed in a way that’s safe for the brain to be able to communicate with other parts of our body,” he explained.
“We can’t do that for the heart because it’s not connected to the brain.
It’s just a piece of metal that’s connected to a piece a brain.”
The new research also revealed how the brain’s electrical activity is affected by changes in temperature, oxygen and humidity.
Dr Gino Nocera, who led the study at Imperial, said the work revealed a “really big gap” in our understanding of the heart’s function.
“Heart cells have no way of measuring temperature, nor do they have any way of controlling the oxygen levels in the blood,” he told BBC News.
“If you had to monitor a person’s heart function, you would probably have to have a device in their chest that was connected to an oxygen sensor and then monitored by a computer.”
The work, published in the journal Cell, was funded by the National Institutes of Health.