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Burmese Python Study May Lead To Potential Heart Disease Cures

Python molurus bivittatus produces fatty acids that would damage a human heart, but one day may cure human heart disease

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The Burmese python's  (Python molurus bivittatus) anatomy may unlock potential cures for human ailments such as heart disease and diabetes, according to a study published in the journal Science. Scientists at the University of Colorado studying how the Burmese python digests its prey noticed that the reptile expands its heart via a process called hypertrophy, by which the heart's existing cells are enlarged. In addition, within a day of eating an animal, the python's internal organs double in size, metabolism speeds up, and the production of insulin and lipids grows. This enlargement of the internal organs is caused by a combination of three fatty acids that cause the python's heart, intestines, liver, and kidneys to grow in size during the digestion process and then return to normal within a few days as its metabolism slows, according to a report in The New York Times

The scientists injected laboratory mice with a similar combination of fatty acids that also enlarged the heart of the mouse. These findings, the study says, may lead the way into finding solutions to treat various heart-related human diseases, both hereditary and acquired. The goal of the python research is to find a cure for heart failure, said Leslie A. Leinwand, a professor at the University of Colorado's Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Leinwald told the Times that in addition to a heart failure cure, the findings could also pave the way for treatments for a variety of ailments, such as sudden heart-related deaths of young athletes, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.