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Using a magnet to treat a heart attack

Illustration for article titled Using a magnet to treat a heart attack

Magnets have been promoted through history as having all kinds of mystical healing qualities. Though most scientists think those 'qualities' are bunk, it looks like there might be a way to use magnets to prevent heart attacks and strokes.


Both heart attacks and strokes are the result of blood flow blockages. Heart attacks happen when material, much of it cholesterol, builds up on the walls of the coronary arteries. It blocks the flow of blood, and the muscles of the heart are starved for oxygen and die. Strokes happen when blood clots lodge in blood vessels of the brain, and block oxygenating blood to brain tissue. Both are very serious events, and both could be mitigated by an unusual property of magnets.

Magnets, it turns out, lower the viscosity of blood. Viscosity is the measure of a liquid's resistance to a change of shape. Viscosity in blood is cranked up by the red blood cells in blood's plasma. The blood cells themselves scratch up the walls of the blood vessels. When the vessels repair themselves, they covered the damaged portions with fat deposits. More red blood cells clump along these fat deposits, creating clots in the artery.


To test the effect of magnets on blood, long tubes filled with blood were put in high magnetic fields. Researchers observed a reduction in blood viscosity that lasted hours after the magnetic field had gone. They believe that the iron in red blood cells, which responds to the magnetic field. The magnet may cause one of two reactions within the blood cells. Either they all cluster together, which reduces the overall amount of surface area the same way a bunch of people traveling by bus use less total area than all of them traveling by car. This lets them move more easily down a road than many separate vehicles. Alternately, the blood cells might be lined up like Rockettes, moving smoothly through a small area rather than rioting through it as individuals. So far, this is only proof of concept, and can't be duplicated at home with a fridge magnet. The magnet required to the job is huge, expensive, and would need to be visited several times a day. Still, it's a new approach to taming the chaos in most people's veins.

Via Physics Central.

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Only if your blood contains iron, I assume.