Several UBC Okanagan researchers are looking at the heart in different ways. (File)

Several UBC Okanagan researchers are looking at the heart in different ways. (File)

UBCO researchers open their hearts for Valentines Day

Researchers weigh in on heart mechanics, mating, romance novels

For Valentines Day, UBC Okanagan faculty members are sharing their knowledge of the heart — in both the physical and emotional forms.

Engineering a new heart

A team of researchers from UBCO’s School of Engineering and the Faculty of Health and Social Development is on the cusp of improving heart function.

The Heart Valve Performance Lab is working to improve mechanical heart valves and researchers believe they’ve developed a way for them to closely match the real thing. The goal is to have the new valves perform consistently and seamlessly in place of normal valves.

“The way blood travels through the body is unique to a person’s physiology, so a ‘one-size-fits-all’ valve has been a real challenge,” said Dr. Hadi Mohammadi, an associate professor at the School of Engineering.

Such advances, Mohammadi said, can lead to new solutions for complex issues such as heart disease.

Evolutionary step backwards

Researchers from UBC, Harvard University and Cardiff Metropolitan University have discovered how the human heart has adapted to support endurance physical activities. For this, UBCO’s Dr. Rob Shave is comparing the human heart to that of the great apes, our closest ancestors. He hopes to contrast the differences in structure and function that developed along separate evolutionary trajectories.

“We hope our research will inform those at highest risk of developing hypertensive heart disease,” said Shave, director of UBCO’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences. “And ensure that moderate-intensity endurance-type activities are widely encouraged in order to ultimately prevent premature deaths.”

Shave said this research will further the understanding of how to improve the lives of those suffering from cardiovascular disease.

Romance in the wild

Animal courtship comes in many forms. Graduate students of Dr. Adam Ford, assistant professor in the Faculty of Science have observed some of the many mating strategies.

“Male cougars will spend three to 10 days with their prospective mate playing, as well as sharing meals and time together,” says Siobhan Darlington, an ecology doctoral student co-supervised by Ford and Dr. Karen Hodges. She explains that cougars can mate year-round, unlike many wild animals.

Doctoral student and deer specialist Chloe Wright said mule deer typically mate in the fall and the pregnant doe will gestate over the winter months.

“During the breeding season, male deer use their antlers to establish a hierarchy by fighting other male deer. The winner usually gets his pick of the females,” said Wright.

Such rituals, both researchers agree, are important in understanding several aspects of wildlife and their environments.

Love and literature

Dr. Marie Loughlin, associate professor of English, offered up her thoughts on great romance novels. Her heart lies with books about loving books themselves, such as 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff.

“Literature and the arts help us better appreciate the human experience,” says Dr. Marie Loughlin, associate professor of English in the Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies.

“Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to delve into one of the most important human emotions and reread foundational examples of literature, like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.”

She also recommends A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel.

“This captures the long history of our love of books and reading from antiquity to the present,” she suggests.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com


@michaelrdrguez
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