Category: cardiovascular system

Cardiac Muscle in Animals - April 24, 2010 by admin

Although even in the adult animals the fundamental modifications in the basic rate of the heart beat are brought about by the brain, the heart can dispense with these com­mands and set its rhythm independently. Figuratively speaking, our heart works on its own initiative, a peculiarity which we somehow do not appreciate. If the fibres of an embryonic cardiac muscle are grown in a tissue culture on a special nutrient medium, they will contract rhythmically in a vial too, without waiting for any orders. They just cannot live without contracting.

Nonetheless, work cannot be well co-ordinated without a headquarters. If every muscle fibre contracted of its own accord, the common contraction could take place only by pure chance. This is what really happens at the earliest stages of embryonic life. In the rat’s embryo individual sections of the heart contract quite independently until the headquarters is set up and starts to operate. In birds and mammals it is located in a special region of the heart known as sino-auricular node.

The cardiac muscle has no nerves, and commands are conducted over the muscle fibres at the rate of one metre per second. This rate is quite adequate for the auricles to contract normally. The ventricles of the heart, which are larger than the auricles and which require commands to be communi­cated more rapidly, have a system, known as Purkinje fibres, over which excitation spreads five or six times more quickly.

In the heart of every self-respecting animal there is only one headquarters known as the pacemaker. More pace­makers would certainly cause a mess. Strange things, however, are not uncommon. The ascidians and some tunicates have two pacemakers, one at each end of the pulsating vessel. In such animals the blood flow periodically changes its direction.

Cardiovascular System Contradiction - April 23, 2010 by admin

There is an essential contradiction in the activity of the cardiovascular system. On the one hand, to maintain an adequate supply of blood, high pressure is necessary. On the other hand, higher pressure spells hazards since it may disrupt the system at any time. If a major blood vessel is captured, death will follow quickly and unavoidably owing to a heavy loss of blood.

To maintain normal pressure, the system is provided with special controlling mechanisms known as baroreceptors. In mammals the most important receptors are located in the arch of the aorta, the sinuses of the carotid arteries transporting the blood to the brain, in the auricles and in the pain-sensitive nerve endings. Should any change in the pressure occur, the receptors will immediately send a signal to the medulla oblongata. The pressure is brought back to normal partly by the heart, but primarily by the blood vessels. The walls of the small vessels, the arterioles, have muscles and can easily constrict or dilate. When constricting, they create certain obstacles to the blood flow and cause higher pressure. Dilation, on the other hand, may reduce the pressure to a critical level and disrupt the circulation of the blood.

The heart beats continuously throughout life, one contrac­tion following another, day and night, whether it is hot or cold. By the twenty-ninth hour something is already pulsating in the tiny ball of cells which makes up a chicken embryo, and the fluid is already being transported by some route. What makes the heart contract? From where does the order come for the chicken embryo to begin working? As yet there is no indication of the brain which governs the organism in the future.