Blood, like the motor oil in a car’s engine, has an ideal viscosity, or thickness, that keeps the body’s circulatory system running smoothly. When a person’s blood is too viscous (too thick and sticky) his or her blood vessels build up more plaque leading to a greater risk of heart attack. Finding a way to decrease the blood’s viscosity, by taking aspirin for example, reduces those risks. The problem with aspirin, though, is that it may cause as much harm as it does help.How they are reportedly able to polarize the nonmagnetic iron in hemoglobin is beyond my understanding, but my greater concern is that reports like this will be misused by those who claim that conventional magnets placed near the body provide health benefits. (Or maybe they do... ?)
Rongjia Tao, chair of the Department of Physics at Temple University, and his former student have found a mechanical alternative to aspirin to thin highly viscous blood.
“It’s quite simple,” Tao said of the technique. He uses a magnetic field to rearrange a person’s red blood cells, streamlining blood that is too thick. A magnetic field of 1.3 Tesla (about the same as an MRI – magnetic resonance imaging - machine) applied to blood for about one minute can reduce its viscosity by 20 to 30 percent....
Huang and Tao tested the technique on human blood samples acquired from Temple University... A huge magnet, weighing near a thousand pounds, created a magnetic field that was applied to the sample with the magnetic field pointed in the blood flow direction.
When applied, the magnetic field polarizes the red blood cells causing them to link together in short chains. Because the field is aligned to the blood flow direction, the chains also form in the same direction, streamlining the movement of the blood. Additionally, because the chains are larger than the single blood cells, they tend to flow down the center of the tube reducing the friction against the walls of the blood vessels. The combined effects reduce the viscosity of the blood, helping it to flow more freely...
Just like in an MRI, the magnet Tao and Huang used does not have the ionizing radiation, like that found in CT scans, which can be harmful to the body. The technique also does not interfere with the normal oxygen delivery and waste removal function of the red blood cells, the researchers said, and is not dependent on blood type.
Tao is still doing research on the technique and hopes that clinical trials will soon follow.
Addendum: A hat tip to Mama Bean, who found a discussion of this research at Science-Based Medicine.