What would happen if we had a second heart?
The human body is an incredible marvel, orchestrating many biological processes simultaneously, from digestion and respiration to metabolism and immune defense. Various regions and systems collaborate harmoniously to maintain a delicate balance, ensuring optimal blood sugar levels, electrolyte concentrations, and peak performance.
A delicate balance.
Consider the intricacies of your vital organs—heart, lungs, pancreas, brain, and liver—each playing a crucial role in sustaining life and supporting one another.
Take the lungs and heart, for instance; they operate in tandem, transferring oxygen to the blood and distributing it throughout the body while simultaneously removing waste as carbon dioxide.
FIRST, THIS QUESTION
Why 2 lungs?
But why do humans have certain organs in pairs, like two lungs, and others as solitary entities, such as the heart?
The answer lies in the evolutionary journey that shaped our internal architecture.
Rutgers University anthropologist Susan Cachel explains that this one-heart/two-lungs system is ancient, predating humans, and shared by most animals, except for earthworms and cephalopods.
Approximately 300 million years ago, as animals transitioned from sea to land, seeking safety and sustenance, the one-heart/two-lungs system emerged as the norm.
Occam's razor, favoring simplicity, suggests that this configuration became prevalent because it fulfilled the requirements for survival and thriving on Earth.
Could 2 hearts make a... superhuman?
Phylogeny, the study of how RNA strands evolved into various species, reveals a remarkable continuity in animal organ systems.
Despite diverse species like birds, insects, and humans, the fundamental organ systems—stomachs for digestion, lungs for breathing, and kidneys for waste filtration—have remained similar.
This underscores how species, including humans, have evolved specifically to thrive on Earth.
But what if we deviate from this established pattern? Would having two hearts enhance our survival?
Dr. Tony Neff, a professor of anatomy and cell biology at Indiana University - Bloomington, cautions against underestimating the significance of duplicate organs. While one can function alone, having both organs in a set ensures full capacity and optimal performance.
Physiologist Bruce Martin adds that the human body operates as a cohesive system, always functioning at its full capacity. The addition of an extra heart wouldn't immediately double the performance of vital processes.
However, over time, as the system adapts to the presence of a second heart, muscles could grow stronger, leading to increased endurance.
Is it ethical?
Interestingly, during the embryonic stage of development, humans start with two hearts, which eventually fuse into one with four chambers.
This raises the intriguing possibility of intentionally developing two hearts and exploring the potential benefits.
However, tampering with our own evolution comes with ethical considerations.
As humans have already shielded themselves from natural selection through technology, the prospect of engineering two hearts prompts us to question the implications of such interventions.
In the quest for understanding our physiological intricacies, we navigate the delicate balance between our evolutionary past and the potential for shaping a future where two hearts could redefine what it means to be human.
You already know your heart is important. What are you feeding it?
6 Natural Ways to Support Heart Health
Keeping your heart healthy is crucial because the heart plays a central role in maintaining overall well-being.
A healthy heart supports blood flow, energy, endurance, longevity, quality of life and even mental health. Here are a few natural ways to keep your heart healthy at any age: