Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Episode 236 (10-20-14) - Water's at the Heart of Blood

Click to listen to episode (3:20)


|From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of October 20, 2014.

SOUND (~3 seconds)

Why is a human heartbeat a water story?  Have a listen for about 25 seconds to these mystery sounds, and see if you can guess the heart-and-water connections they represent.  And here’s a hint: if you have the energy, you could follow many branches to this solution.


You’ve been listening to sounds from a recent platelets donation at the American Red Cross’ New River Valley Donor Center in Blacksburg, Virginia.  A blood-pressure measurement, a needle stick into an arm vein, and the machine separating blood components and recirculating fluid to the patient illustrate three connections between the human circulatory system and water.  First, the heart provides a force—measured by blood pressure—to keep blood circulating around the body, just as the sun’s energy powers evaporation and winds that help keep water circulating around the earth.  Second, arm veins are part of an intricately branched system of arteries, veins, and capillaries, resembling a watershed’s branching pattern as one travels uphill from ocean to river to headwater streams; interestingly, the average adult human has approximately 60,000 miles of blood vessels, compared to Virginia’s approximately 51,000 miles of rivers and streams.  Finally, blood’s components are mostly water: plasma is a solution of water and many biochemicals, mixed with water-based red and white blood cells and with platelets.  As a result, blood in the human system has water’s physical and chemical properties for transporting materials and regulating heat, like water does within ecosystems.

Cells and transported substances make blood “thicker” than water, just as the saying goes.  But the water we borrow temporarily from the global water cycle is at the chemical and physical heart of blood and the circulatory system’s vital functions.

Thanks to Mike Koenig and Soundbible.com for making the heartbeat sound available for public use.

SOUND (~3 seconds)

For other water sounds and music, and for more Virginia water information, visit our Web site at virginiawaterradio.org, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  From the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.

[All Internet addresses mentioned were functional as of 10/20/14]

Blood plasma (top) and platelets (bottom) from a platelet donation at the American Red Cross New River Valley Donor Center in Blacksburg, Va., in October 2014.


The human heartbeat sound was recorded by Mike Koenig and made available (9/14/09 upload) online at the Soundbible.com Web site, http://soundbible.com/1001-Heartbeat.html, for public use under the Creative Commons license “Attribution 3.0”; for more information on Creative Commons licenses, please see http://creativecommons.org/.

Other sounds heard in this episode were recorded at the American Red Cross New River Donor Center in Blacksburg, Virginia, during a platelet donation by Virginia Water Radio host Alan Raflo.  Thanks to the staff at the Donor Center for their help and for allowing the sound recording.  For information about blood and platelet donations, please visit the American Red Cross’ “Donating Blood” Web site at http://www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood.

Sources for this episode

The Circulatory System
, by Leslie Mertz, Greenwood Press, Westport, Conn., 2004.

Shape and Structure, from Engineering to Nature
, by Adrian Bejan, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 2000.

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, “Final 2012 305(b)/303(d) Water Quality Assessment Integrated Report,” Chapter 2: State Background Information; available online at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/WaterQualityInformationTMDLs/WaterQualityAssessments/2012305%28b%29303%28d%29IntegratedReport.aspx.

Other sources of information about blood and circulatory systems
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Blood Safety,” online at http://www.cdc.gov/bloodsafety/.

U.S. National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute, SEER Training Module, “Leukemia/Anatomy,” online at http://training.seer.cancer.gov/leukemia/anatomy/.

U.S. National Institutes of Health/National Library of Medicine, “Blood, Heart and Circulation,” online at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/bloodheartandcirculation.html.