For the Love of Snakes

Discussion in 'Health and Lifestyle' started by Iridescence, Oct 27, 2011.

  1. Iridescence
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    Iridescence BANNED

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    Python Hearts May Hold Key to Treating Cardiac Disease | Heart Disease Treatments & Fatty Acids | Burmese Pythons Gorge on Rats & Snake Science | LiveScience

    After pythons eat a meal, their organs — including their hearts — nearly double in size within a day. Now, researchers have learned how the snakes are able to achieve this sort of growth without heart damage, a finding that could lead to new therapies for human heart disease.


    After a meal, python blood is so full of triglycerides, a form of cholesterol, that it appears milky, said study researcher Leslie Leinwand, a biologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. In humans, these fatty compounds would be deposited in heart muscle, but the snakes escape without damage.


    "The python heart is able to burn these fats as fuel very, very efficiently, without any harm to it," Leinwand told LiveScience.

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    Growing healthy hearts
    Years ago, Leinwand read an article about Burmese pythons and their amazing ability to fast for months, gorge on food and undergo massive organ growth with no apparent ill effects. Plenty of researchers have looked to the strengths of other organisms to see if there could be any benefits to humans; for example, a diabetes drug released in 2005, called Byetta, was developed from the saliva of the Gila monster.


    Leinwand wanted to know if python physiology might be the key to human drug treatments. In humans, heart growth can be a sign of health or of disease: Athletes' hearts grow large with exercise, but the chambers of the heart that pump the blood stay large, too. That makes the heart more efficient overall. In people with heart disease or high blood pressure, the heart muscle often swells as it works harder to pump blood. But this type of heart growth takes up space in the heart chamber, meaning each beat of the heart pumps less blood.


    Figuring out how to encourage healthy heart growth in humans could be a boon for heart disease patients, Leinwand said.


    "It's very well known from decades of work that exercise is good for your heart," she said. "But a lot of times, people who have heart disease can't exercise enough to get that benefit."


    The goal, Leinwand said, is to create a drug treatment that could nudge a diseased heart toward healthy growth. [Top 10 Amazing Facts About Your Heart]

    The heart of a python


    First, however, she had to learn how to take care of pythons and set up a python colony in her Boulder lab. That took some time, she said.


    Once the researchers figured out python husbandry, they set about figuring out the molecular secrets of python gorging and fasting. So they had pythons fast for 28 days (much less than they do in the wild, where they can go without food for almost a year), and then gorge on a mouse or rat weighing 25 percent of the snake's own body weight. Then the researchers analyzed blood from both the fasting python and the fed python to see what molecular changes occur. [Gruesome Images Reveal Python Digesting a Rat]


    Early on in this experiment, a postdoctoral researcher in Leinwand's lab, Cecilia Riquelme, came to Leinwand with a suggestion: They should test blood plasma of pythons that had been fed — the part of blood that red blood cells float in — on rat heart cells to see if molecules in the plasma would make mammal hearts grow as they did the reptile hearts.


    "That's a huge leap," Leinwand said. "And in fact, I've laughed about this since, because I told her not to do it. I thought there was no chance it was going to work."


    Riquelme didn't listen, and completed the rat heart-cell experiment anyway. It worked. The heart cells grew in a lab dish.


    "That reinforced our desire to study the pythons," Leinwand said. "If we can understand this biology, it looks like we can use this in mammals."

    Fatty acid protection


    The researchers began to hunt for the specific molecules that signal the heart to grow within the pythons' blood plasma. They eventually discovered a particular batch of fatty acids that seem to trigger a flood of heart-protecting enzymes to keep damage at bay. Next, the researchers hooked up mice to miniature pumps that injected them with low doses of this fatty-acid mixture over the course of a week.


    Just as the rat heart cells had grown in the dish, the living mouse hearts grew, too. And there was no sign of the muscle stiffening that accompanies heart growth in patients with heart disease, the researchers report in the Oct. 28 issue of the journal Science.


    The fatty-acid mixture is a long way from being used in human treatments, but the researchers are now testing it in mice with heart disease to see if they can halt or reverse the damage. Even if the treatment succeeds in mice, it may not work in humans. But other researchers say that the shared evolutionary history of all organisms offers some hope.


    "It's a well-established pathway for discovery," said Tom Cech, a biochemist and Nobel laureate at UC Boulder who did not participate in Leinwand's study. "You look for an organism that exaggerates a particular phenomenon, and then you study it in that organism that exaggerates it. Because all of life is connected through evolution, very often results from other organisms are relevant to human biology."

    ...fascinating...
     
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  2. waltky
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    waltky Wise ol' monkey Supporting Member

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    Python potpourri...
    :cool:
    Pythons Unlock Human Heart Health Secrets
    October 31, 2011 - Studying snakes might seem like an unlikely way to help people with heart disease, but a python’s remarkable ability to quickly enlarge its heart during digestion has Colorado medical researchers looking toward surprising new therapies to treat human heart conditions.
    See also:

    South Florida python swallows 76-pound adult deer
    October 31, 2011 - South Florida python: A 16-foot Burmese python was spotted in a tree island in Florida's Everglades and shot dead. An autopsy revealed that it had devoured a 76-pound deer.
     
  3. editec
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    editec Mr. Forgot-it-All

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    Yes this is a fascinating discovery.

    It's still another damned good reason to insure that we don't destroy species by destroying their habitates.

    Mother nature has been doing experiments on what works for life for billions of years and she still has much to teach us about biochemistry.
     
  4. uscitizen
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    uscitizen Senior Member

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    Most politicians already have the heart of a snake.
     
  5. uscitizen
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    uscitizen Senior Member

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    Perhaps we do need to back off a bit on this occupy wall street thing?
     
  6. 9thIDdoc
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    9thIDdoc Gold Member

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    It's still another damned good reason to insure that we don't destroy species by destroying their habitates.

    I don't imagine deer would be all that sorry to see pythons go.
     
  7. waltky
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    waltky Wise ol' monkey Supporting Member

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    Dat's why Granny don't move to Florida, might get eatin' by a big ol' snake...
    :eek:
    Pythons apparently wiping out Everglades mammals
    Mon Jan 30,`12 – A burgeoning population of huge pythons — many of them pets that were turned loose by their owners when they got too big — appears to be wiping out large numbers of raccoons, opossums, bobcats and other mammals in the Everglades, a study says.
     
  8. editec
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    editec Mr. Forgot-it-All

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    I don't really see the connection you're seeking to make.

    You want to connect those dots for me?
     
  9. Iridescence
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    Iridescence BANNED

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    As all living creatures came from the genetic codes of man, it is understandable why we are told to not reverse the orders by using animal genes to 'enhance' humans in the preventive cures toward disease... (perhaps the backward step is suggesting that disease is also derived from man.) :dunno: I am forever amazed at the wonders we have so readily available in proving themselves to us in the basicness of mother nature.

    It can be very thought provoking, to say the least.
     
  10. stanzoe
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    stanzoe Rookie

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    True, we can use animal genes to cure and to be used in utmost condition for human, rather than developing it only for human enhancement!!!
     

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