Heart Healthy Pythons

Fatty acids promoting heart health circulate through pythons

(RxWiki News) An unexpected finding in pythons may have implications for treating human heart disease. Fatty acids circulating in the blood streams of the snakes were found to promote heart growth--a discovery that could aid in development of treatments for humans.

Triglycerides in Burmese pythons increased 50-fold a day after eating, which appeared to result in increased activity of an enzyme that protects the heart from damage.

"Follow heart treatments suggested by your cardiologist."

Cecilia Riquelme, the lead author and a postdoctural researcher with the University of Colorado at Boulder, said they found a combination of fatty acids that can induce beneficial heart growth in living organisms. She said researchers are now working to understand the molecular mechanisms behind the process, which could lead to new therapies for heart disease in humans.

Researchers first analyzed the blood of recently fed pythons. They then injected fasting pythons with blood plasma or a reconstituted fatty acid mixture developed to mimic the blood plasma of a recently fed python. In both cases, they found increased heart growth and indicators of cardiac health. Investigators also injected mice with fed python plasma and the fatty acid mixture with similar results.

After confirming that the blood plasma was leading to cardiac growth, researchers analyzed fasting and fed python plasma. They were able to identify a complex composition of circulating fatty acids with distinct patterns of abundance through the course of the digestive process.

Those fatty acids identified in the fed python plasma include myristic acid, palmitic acid and palmitoleic acid, while the enzyme that demonstrated increased heart activity during feeding is called superoxide dismutase, known for protecting the hearts in organisms including humans.

The research was published in journal Science.

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Review Date: 
November 3, 2011