Scientists in America are looking at python blood in their research for a new cure for heart diseases.
The fats circulating in the bloodstream of these snakes after a heavy meal go up by 50 times the normal level, yet it does not cause any damage to the heart.
Understanding this could yield new therapies for heart problems in humans, say the scientists from the University of Colorado.
Pythons in Burmese jungles can go a year without food, and once they have a meal, their heart nearly doubles in size.
Certain fatty acids and triglycerides circulating in python plasma trigger this growth and protect it from damage. This knowledge could help develop new cures for people suffering from cardiomyopathy, says the research published in the journal Science last week.
The blood pressure lowering drugs ACE inhibitors originated from Brazilian pit viper venom after it was noticed that blood pressure of people bitten by the snake would drop instantly and they would die.
The first anti-coagulant drugs were inspired in the 1960s by the Malaysian pit viper when scientists noticed that when people were bitten by this snake their blood did not clot for several days.
In cardiomyopathy, the heart usually has to work harder to pump blood. However, heart enlargement that results from exercise is known to be beneficial. Trained athletes have large hearts.
In the latest research, a team led by Leslie Leinwand found that the amount of triglycerides in the blood of Burmese pythons one day after eating increased more than 50-fold. While there was no evidence of fat deposits in the heart, an increase in the activity of a key enzyme known to protect the heart from damage was observed.
When fasting pythons were injected with blood plasma similar to that seen in fed pythons, they showed increased heart growth and indicators of cardiac health. Similar results were seen when this plasma was injected into lab mice.
The three key fatty acids identified in the blood of fed pythons are myristic acid, palmitic acid and palmitoleic acid. The enzyme that showed increased activity in the python hearts during feeding episodes is known to be a 'cardio-protective' enzyme in many organisms including humans, researchers said.
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