Pythons Promote Healthy Heart Growth
Reported October 31, 2011
(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- If you have a fear of snakes, hopefully this will change
your mind! According to a recent study, fatty acids circulating through feeding
python bloodstreams promote healthy heart growth in the constricting snake and
the results may have implications for treating human heart disease.
University of Colorado Boulder Professor Leslie Leinwand and her research team
found the amount of triglycerides, the main constituent of natural fats and
oils, in the blood of Burmese pythons increased just one day after eating.
Despite the massive amount of fatty acids in the python bloodstream there was no
evidence of fat deposition in the heart, and the researchers also saw an
increase in the activity of a key enzyme known to protect the heart from damage.
CU-Boulder researchers injected mice with either fed python plasma or a
reconstituted fatty acid mixture developed to mimic such plasma after first
testing it on the pythons. Both showed increased heart growth and indicators of
cardiac health. Furthermore, there were no alterations in the liver or skeletal
muscles in the mice.
"We found that a combination of fatty acids can induce beneficial heart growth
in living organisms," CU-Boulder postdoctoral researcher Cecilia Riquelme, first
author on the Science paper, was quoted as saying. "Now we are trying to
understand the molecular mechanisms behind the process in hopes that the results
might lead to new therapies to improve heart disease conditions in humans."
However, according to Leinwand, there are good and bad types of heart growth,
such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the leading cause of sudden death in young
athletes. While cardiac diseases can cause human heart muscle to thicken and
decrease the size of the heart chambers and heart function because the organ is
working harder to pump blood, heart enlargement from exercise is beneficial.
"Well-conditioned athletes like Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and cyclist Lance
Armstrong have huge hearts," Leinwand, a professor in the molecular, cellular
and developmental biology department and chief scientific officer of CU's
Biofrontiers Institute was quoted as saying, "But there are many people who are
unable to exercise because of existing heart disease, so it would be nice to
develop some kind of a treatment to promote the beneficial growth of heart