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If I only had a heart.

The Wizard of Oz was able to give the Tin Man something he didn't have -- a hear -- and cardiac surgeons have been able to give a handful of people a working artificial heart. But while artificial hearts may adequately pump blood, or in the case of the Tin Man make a ticking sound, they can't do something that natural hearts do -- produce a hormone called artrial natriuretic factor (ANF). Discovered in 1981, ANF is involved in the regulation of blood pressure and of salt and water balance. "The artificial heart, and perhaps the transplanted heart, may not be able to stimulate and release such hormones," says Michael J. Brody of the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

What sort of problems that will pose remains to be seen. "The good news is the body is usually able to find a second way to provide a physiologic response," Brody says.

The difficulty in determining the effect of ANF deficiency and the need for supplementation comes from the difficulty in finding an animal model, notes Steven Atlas of Cornell University. The problem is removing the source completely -- the atria, or storage chambers, of the heart -- without killing the animal. "The complete absence of atria hasn't been achieved experimentally," he says. The answer may come when antagonists to the hormone are found.
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Title Annotation:research on artrial natriuretic factor
Author:Silberner, Joanne
Publication:Science News
Date:Nov 30, 1985
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