Ostriches May Help Improve Heart Surgery

January 14, 2013

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. blood vessel (n.) 
[bluhd] [ves-uhl]– a tube-like body part that carries blood throughout the body
Example:  Blood cannot properly flow through the body if blood vessels are blocked..

2. substitute (v.) [suhb-sti-toot, -tyoot]–to replace or take the place of another
Example:  The heart patient substituted his protein diet plan with a balanced one.

3. surgery (n.) [sur-juh-ree]– a medical procedure wherein an organ or tissue is removed or replaced to treat a disease
Example: The doctor performed surgery to remove the patient’s kidney stones.

4. diameter (n.) [dahy-am-i-ter] – the length of a line through the center of a circle
Example: The human eyeball has a diameter of about 2.5 centimeters.

5. clot (v.) [klot]– to thicken to harden, making it difficult for things to pass through
Example: Blood clotted in the man’s brain, preventing blood from going to other parts of the brain.

Read the text below.

Japanese scientists have discovered that ostrich blood vessels could effectively substitute human blood vessels in heart bypass surgery.

Doctors can harvest up to 12 inches (30.48 cm) of blood vessel from the ostrich’s long neck. The diameter of each blood vessel is about 0.08 inches (0.20 cm), smaller than the diameters of other materials doctors have been using. The ostrich blood vessels are then treated with a chemical substance that will prevent blood from clotting.

Surgeons typically use blood vessels taken from dead human donors or from other parts of the patient’s own body. Sometimes, doctors use synthetic blood vessels made in a laboratory. But the problem with these typical materials is that doctors need them to be longer and thinner to keep blood flowing properly or to prevent clotting.

According to the head scientist Tetsuji Yamaoka, ostrich blood vessels make good substitutes because humans need thin and long blood vessels. For heart bypass surgery, a 10–centimeter blood vessel is needed. For bypass surgery in the leg, a 20-centimeter blood vessel is needed. Surgeons can just cut the ostrich blood vessels according to the needed length. 

To test the effectiveness of ostrich blood vessels, the researchers used them in bypass surgeries of five pigs. The surgeries were a success. Blood flowed smoothly through the ostrich blood vessels. They were the world’s first successful bypass surgeries using such thin and long blood vessels.

In three years, Yamaoka’s team plans to test the ostrich blood vessels on humans.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         What do you think about the idea of using animal parts to replace human parts?
·         How can people take better care of their bodies?

Discussion B

·         What do you think causes heart disease?
·         What can people do to keep their heart healthy?


January 14, 2013