A study conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado provides insight into the biological process that goes on in the python, as it digests its prey after a meal. This understanding, scientists reveal, may have important implications in humans, especially when it comes to heart failure.
In the current issue of Science, the researchers reported that the python expands its heart when gorging by enlarging existing cells, through a process called hypertrophy. In addition, they found that that there is a specific combination of three fatty acids that produces enlargement of the heart, intestines, liver, and kidneys of the python.
The significance of these findings, the researchers said, lies in the fact that these may be used in the development of ways to delay, prevent, treat, or reverse hereditary, as well as acquired, human illnesses.
Leslie A. Leinwand, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor at the University of Colorado and a senior member of the research team, shared that the focus of the research is heart failure. In addition, the results of the study may also serve as a springboard for the development of treatments towards the prevention of sudden death among young athletes; diabetes; high blood pressure; and obesity.
There are two types of occurrence of hypertrophy in humans. One is triggered by such health conditions as high blood pressure and heart attacks, while the other is beneficial as it occurs due to exercise.
Researchers determined that the enlargement in the heart of a python is similar to the growth that is seen in human athletes.