The University of Colorado at Boulder is teaming up with a Boulder biotechnology company to use pythons, which dramatically increase their heart size for a short time after swallowing prey, as models for new therapeutics to treat cardiac diseases.
Hiberna Corp., a Boulder-based company developing drugs based on natural models of extreme metabolic regulation, has signed an exclusive agreement with the university's Technology Transfer Office on the effort. Hiberna licensed technology developed by CU-Boulder Professor Leslie Leinwand based on the natural ability of pythons to increase their heart size by up to 60 percent and speed their metabolism by 40-fold after feeding episodes.
Leinwand said the ability of pythons and other constricting snakes to enlarge and then decrease their heart muscle mass in just days may help researchers target new drugs for treating cardiac growth in response to disease, which causes human heart muscle to thicken and decreases the size of heart chambers and heart function. Leinwand is a professor in CU-Boulder's molecular, cellular and developmental biology department and director of the University of Colorado Cardiovascular Institute.
Increases in cardiac size are clinically important because heart enlargement in humans resulting from exercise is beneficial, but heart enlargement from high blood pressure is unhealthy, said Leinwand, who studies genetic heart defects. Understanding which genes are involved in regulating the python's rapid heart muscle changes may have implications for treating cardiac hypertrophy, or thickening of the heart muscle, she said.
"This may be a unique path toward potential drug development," Leinwand said of the Burmese python effort. "If we are able to understand the genetic cues involved in rapid python heart muscle increases and decreases, that to me says there is the potential to develop therapeutics for humans."
Leinwand has studied hypertrophic c
|Contact: Leslie Leinwand|
University of Colorado at Boulder