The human respiratory system is made up of your nose, sinuses, mouth, throat, voice box, windpipe, lungs, diaphragm and blood vessels. Breathing is the process of inhaling and exhaling. When you inhale, you bring oxygen-rich air into your body. When you exhale, you release carbon dioxide into the air from your body. Each of us breathes about 25,000 times during a regular day. If you are healthy, this process is easy. But for the millions of people with long-term respiratory diseases, breathing is not that simple. If you have ever suffered from a cold or allergies, you have experienced what it feels like to have trouble breathing. Imagine if every breathe for the rest of your life was this difficult?
The lung is a magnificent organ built of a complex tree of airways that are, in an average person, 44 miles long and serve to ventilate 300 to 500 million air sacs or alveoli, with a total surface area nearly the size of a tennis court. This surface is covered by a dense mesh of blood capillaries of total length of about 3,000 miles. About 85 percent of the alveolar surface is in contact with blood across a tissue barrier 50 times thinner than a sheet of onion skin paper, which allows a very efficient uptake of oxygen.
Around 12 million people have chronic lung disease in the United States alone, but less than 2,000 people will be able to receive transplants because the need for transplant organs far outnumbers the supply of available organs. As a result, nearly 200,000 people die from chronic lung disease every year.
For more than 20 years, guest Dr. Keith Cook, and other researchers have worked on artificial temporary lungs that support patients in need of a lung transplant who are placed on a waiting list. These devices typically last days to a couple of weeks before failure and require patients to be closely monitored in a hospital.
There are 100,000 miles of blood vessels in an adult human body! Imagine that…if you stretched out all of someone’s blood vessels end to end they would go around the world three times!! Blood vessels, that we call the vasculature, go everywhere and are involved in issues large and small. They protect the brain, feed tumors and cause the famous brain freeze for those of us who like to eat ice cream!! Any real problem along this vast network can cause severe pain, disability and death.
The most common vascular diseases are stroke, peripheral artery disease (PAD), abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), carotid artery disease (CAD), arteriovenous malformation (AVM), critical limb ischemia (CLI), pulmonary embolism (blood clots), deep vein thrombosis (DVT), chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), and varicose veins. PAD alone affects 8.5 million people. It can occur in anyone at any time; affecting men and women equally.
In this episode, we are very fortunate to have one of the world’s most respected and accomplished vascular researchers. Dr. Mark Gladwin is Chair, Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Director of the Pittsburgh Heart, Lung, Blood, and Vascular Medicine Institute (VMI) and Co-director/researcher at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute (HVI). In addition to our discussion about treating disease with novel technological solutions, Dr. Gladwin will talk about his research and exciting discovery regarding the creation of the only known potential antidote for carbon monoxide poisoning.