Saturday, October 29, 2011

Some Snake Oil Might Be Just What You Need

Snakes get a bad rap for being slimy, cold-hearted creatures, but US researchers said Thursday some actually have huge hearts that could offer clues to treating people with cardiac disease.

The secret to the giant Burmese python's success is in a massive amount of fatty acids that circulate in the snake's blood after eating a meal, which could be as big as a deer, according to the study in the journal Science.

Scientists at the University of Colorado at Boulder found that as the snake starts digesting its catch, natural oils and fats called triglycerides spike by more than 50 times the usual level.

But there is no fat deposited in the snake's heart, due to the activation of a key enzyme that protects the thumping organ as it grows in mass by as much as 40 percent in the first few days after a meal.

Scientists identified the chemical composition of the python's blood after eating, and injected either the fed python's plasma or a mixture devised to imitate it into pythons that were fasting.

"In both cases, the pythons showed increased heart growth and indicators of cardiac health," said the study, noting that Burmese pythons are as thick as a telephone pole, grow to around 27 feet (eight meters) long and can go without food for up to a year.

Researchers then tried the experiment on mice, and found that mice injected with either fed python plasma or the fatty acid mixture showed the same results.
I wonder if this explains the "Greasy English Breakfast Effect", an effect where high fat meals actually appear to prevent some damage in heart attacks.

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