Glenny, R. W., S. Bernard, H. T. Robertson and M. P. Hlastala. Gravity is an important but secondary determinant of regional pulmonary blood flow in upright primates. Journal of Applied Physiology. 86:623-632, 1999.
Original studies leading to the gravitational model of pulmonary blood flow and contemporary studies showing gravity-independent perfusion differ in the recent use of laboratory animals instead of humans. We explored the distribution of pulmonary blood flow in baboons because their anatomy, serial distribution of vascular resistances, and hemodynamic responses to hypoxia are similar to those of humans. Four baboons were anesthetized with ketamine, intubated, and mechanically ventilated. Different colors of fluorescent microspheres were given intravenously while the animals were in the supine, prone, upright (repeated), and head-down (repeated) postures. The animals were killed, and their lungs were excised, dried, and diced into similar to 2-cm(3) pieces with the spatial coordinates recorded for each piece. Regional blood flow was determined for each posture from the fluorescent signals of each piece. Perfusion heterogeneity was greatest in the upright posture and least when prone. Using multiple-stepwise regression, we estimate that 7, 5, and 25% of perfusion heterogeneity is due to gravity in the supine, prone, and upright postures, respectively. Although important, gravity is not the predominant determinant of pulmonary perfusion heterogeneity in upright primates. Because of anatomic similarities, the same may be true for humans.