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Discussions Discussion Molecular and Cell Biology
Dan Thompson, Oct. 28, 2011

Biology discovery – It turns out that the python’s heart balloons in size as it digests - similar to the larger-than-normal heart of an Olympic athlete.

It’s this amazing biology,” said Leslie Leinwand, a molecular biologist at the University of Colorado Boulder. “They’re not swelling up. They’re building (heart) muscle.”

Their metabolism rises more than 40-fold, and their organs immediately start growing in size to get the digesting done. The heart alone grows a startling 40 percent or more within three days.

The implications for people?

The scientists found that a specific combination of three fatty acids in the blood helped promote the healthy heart growth of the python. Sure enough, injecting living mice made their hearts grow in an apparently healthy way as well.

If the same underlying heart signals work in animals as divergent as snakes and mice, “this may reveal a common universal mechanism that can be used for improving cardiac function in all vertebrates, including humans.

The video shows another group of scientists on the path to the same discovery a few years ago.


Dan Thompson

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