Preposterous! The heart must be fully responsible. We’ve known that for centuries. Even though the philosopher Rudolph Steiner questioned that view years back, how could there be much reason to question that the heart uniquely drives the circulation?

Let me explain.

Some years ago I had the pleasure to visit my friend Vladimir Voeikov, at Moscow University. When I arrived at his office, Vladimir immediately introduced me to a scientist in a laboratory down the hall, telling me that this guy had something interesting to say.

What could it be?

Translating from Russian to English, Vladimir let the scientist run loose. He started with a strong statement, which I recollect as follows: “There’s a BIG problem in the cardiovascular system.” Having studied pressures and flows in the cardiovascular system as my PhD work, I thought we had it all worked out, and felt myself somewhat short tempered. What could this guy tell me, I thought, that I didn’t already know? With some measure of shamefulness, I felt that I was cutting the clouds with my nose.

Within five minutes he had me convinced. There was, indeed, a big problem.

He proceeded to explain: Red blood cells are 6 – 7 micrometers in diameter. Those galumphing cells must squeeze through narrow capillaries that are as small as half the red-cell diameter: 3 to 4 µm in healthy young adults. To do so, they must bend or contort, and I recalled seeing videos showing exactly that: contorted red blood cells working their way through those narrow capillaries.

The issue: squeezing those red blood cells takes energy. From where does all of that energy come?

The required amount of energy is something he had calculated. Put in understandable terms, he argued that if the heart were responsible for bending those cells, the left ventricle would need to develop a pressure on the order of a million times normal left ventricular pressure. You might refer to that as “high blood pressure” but here, if the calculation were even remotely close to reality, the required ventricular pressure would be astronomical.

There had to be some other driving force beyond the heart.

I was unaware, at the time, that during the last century no fewer than half a dozen reports appeared showing that after the heart had stopped, blood continued to flow. Few paid attention, but the result made clear that a driving force different from the heart seemed to be in place. How, otherwise, could one explain continued flow after the heart stopped pumping?

That Russian scientist went on to pose several hypotheses, none of which sounded remotely convincing to me. Meanwhile, I found myself ready to burst out with relevant insight: a recent finding in our laboratory that seemed to hold huge promise for resolving the enigma.

The finding? We had observed that merely immersing a tube made of hydrophilic (water-loving) material horizontally in a bath of water produced a startling result: the water flowed through the tube, almost endlessly. It was like water flowing through a straw, except that in this case the straw was horizontally oriented. I wondered whether this same principle could apply in the cardiovascular system, i.e., whether the vessels themselves might propel the flow, in the same way as the tubes.

The idea was of course radical, for it implicitly challenged the long-held view that the heart alone was responsible for pumping the blood. Yet, it now appeared that something beyond the heart must be contributing. This presumption came not only from the theoretical computation implying the need for massive energy, beyond what could reasonably be expected from the heart, to bend the erythrocytes, but also from the multiple observations of blood continuing to flow well after the heart stops.

I asked my graduate student, Zheng Li, if he had interest in following up, experimentally. He agreed. But he admitted to me only much later that when I had proposed this seeming zany idea, he thought I must have been on some kind of drug. It seemed too absurd to be real.

He proceeded, nevertheless.

Li set up an apparatus to investigate in a “living” system, using a three-day-old chick embryo. At three days, the cardiovascular system is largely developed, but the neural and hormonal regulatory systems are not. So, the preparation is rather “pure.” We wished to test the signature feature of what we’d found in the laboratory: that the tubular flow was driven by infrared energy.

The results proved positive. Step 1 was to stop the heart, which is easily done by injecting KCl. We were not surprised to find what others had reported earlier: even when the heart stopped, flow continued, albeit at considerably lower velocity. Then, the test: we applied infrared energy and found that the magnitude of flow increased by more than three times. When we removed the IR energy, flow returned back to control values.

It appears, then, that the simple laboratory observation, a hydrophilic tube immersed in water produces flow, appears also to work also in the cardiovascular system. That is, flow of blood is certainly driven by the heart, but in addition, flow appears to be driven also by the (tubular) vessels themselves. In other words, cardiovascular flow is driven by TWO propulsive agents.

Determining the magnitude of the vessel contribution could not be achieved in that preliminary study. The non-contracting heart constituted a dead blob sitting in the line of flow. It became an obstacle, in the way of pumping by the vessel-driving system. Therefore, the observed magnitude of flow velocity was limited, and can only be a minimal estimate of what might actually apply in vivo. Quantification remains for the future. But the Russian calculation, if even close to accurate, implies that vessel-driven flow must constitute a substantial component.

My student, Zheng Li, now acknowledges that the assertion that I must have been on some kind of drug was ill conceived. He’s fully aboard. As of this writing, our manuscript is under review, and we’re hoping it will soon be published.

If we are right, then what has emerged is a radical new finding: our cardiovascular system is driven not only by the heart, but by the vessels as well. We understand the mechanism underlying the vessel-driving system (see “The Fourth Phase of Water”, (Ebner and Sons, 2013). Thoughtful physicians have begun embracing the ideaeven though the decisive manuscript has yet to be published.