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Python Plasma

November 15, 2011

Fatty acids in python blood stimulate healthy heart growth.



Big-hearted snakes.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Python blood may hold the key to new heart medicines.  This according to molecular biologist Leslie Leinwand of the University of Colorado, Boulder.  She explains that while a python digests a huge meal, its organs temporarily grow, up to double in size.  She and postdoc Cecilia Riquelme found that a surge of three fatty acids in the bloodstream builds up the heart tissue.  But all that fat doesn’t harm the snake.

LESLIE LEINWAND (University of Colorado Boulder):

We found out that the python burns through these fatty acids very very rapidly, to create the energy that the snake needs to be able to digest its meal. 

Their team also treated rat heart cells and live mice with the python fatty acids.  In both cases, the heart tissue got bigger and stronger.  It’s hoped that eventually, python blood could inspire new treatments for human hearts as well.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.