Navigation Links
Fatty acids involved in python heart growth could benefit diseased human heart

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. Identification of three fatty acids involved in the extreme growth of Burmese pythons' hearts following large meals could prove beneficial in treating diseased human hearts, according to research co-authored by a University of Alabama scientist and publishing in the Oct. 28 issue of Science.

Growth of the human heart can be beneficial when resulting from exercise a type of growth known as physiological cardiac hypertrophy but damaging when triggered by disease growth known as pathological hypertrophy. The new research shows a potential avenue by which to make the unhealthy heart growth more like the healthy version.

"We may later be able to turn the tables, in a sense, in the processes involved in pathological hypertrophy by administering a combination of fatty acids that occur in very high concentrations in the blood of digesting pythons," said Dr. Stephen Secor, associate professor of biological sciences at UA and one of the paper's co-authors. "This could trigger, perhaps, something more akin to the physiological form of hypertrophy."

The research, conducted in collaboration with multiple researchers at the University of Colorado working in the lab of Dr. Leslie Leinwand, identified three fatty acids, myristic acid, palmitic acid and palmitoleic acid, for their roles in the snakes' healthy heart growths following a meal.

Researchers took these fatty acids from feasting pythons and infused them into fasting pythons. Afterward, those fasting pythons underwent heart-rate growths similar to that of the feasting pythons. In a similar fashion, the researchers were able to induce comparable heart-rate growths in rats, indicating that the fatty acids have a similar effect on the mammalian heart.

The paper, whose lead author was Dr. Cecilia Riquelme of the University of Colorado, also showed that the pythons' heart growth was a result of the individual heart cells growing in size, rather than multiplying in number.

By studying gene expression in the python hearts which genes are turned on following feasting the research, Secor said, shows that the changes the pythons' hearts undergo is more like the positive changes seen in a marathon runner rather than the types of changes seen in a diseased, or genetically altered, heart.

"Cyclists, marathon runners, rowers, swimmers, they tend to have larger hearts," Secor said. "It's the heart working harder to move blood through it. The term is 'volume overload,' in reference to more blood being pumped to tissues. In response, the heart's chambers get larger, and more blood is pushed out with every contraction, resulting in increased cardiac performance."

However, the time-frame of this increased heart performance of a python blows away even the most physically-fit distance runner, Secor said.

"Instead of experiencing elevated cardiac performance for several hours with running, the Burmese python is maintaining heightened cardiac output for five to six days, non-stop, while digesting their large meal."

Another interesting finding of the research, Secor said, is even with the increased volume of triglycerides circulating in the snakes after feeding, those lipids are not remaining within the snakes' hearts or vascular systems after the completion of digestion.

"The python hearts are using the circulating lipids to fuel the increase in performance."

Traditionally, mice have been the preferred animal model used to study the genetic heart disease known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, characterized by heart growth and contractile dysfunction. However, the snakes' unusual physiological responses render them more insightful models, in some cases, Secor said.

Pythons are infrequent feeders, sometimes eating only once or twice a year in the wild. When they do eat, they undergo extreme physiologic and metabolic changes that include increases in the size of the heart, along with the liver, pancreas, small intestine and kidney. Three days after a feeding, a python's heart mass can increase as much as 40 percent, before reverting to its pre-meal size once digestion is completed, Secor said.

Contact: Chris Bryant
University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa

Related biology news :

1. Liver parasite lacks key genes for fatty acid synthesis: Genome sequencing of Clonorchis sinensis
2. How fatty diets cause diabetes
3. Gene variant increases fatty liver risk and fibrosis progression
4. Scientists develop a fatty kryptonite to defeat multidrug-resistant Super bugs
5. Fish livers contain beneficial fatty acids
6. New data show non-alcoholic fatty liver disease will reach epidemic status in the US
7. New sleep cycle discovery explains why fatty diets during pregnancy make kids obese
8. Consuming polyunsaturated fatty acids may lower the incidence of gum disease
9. U of I study: Lack of omega-3 fatty acid linked to male infertility
10. U of I study: Lack of omega-6 fatty acid linked to severe dermatitis
11. How much omega-3 fatty acid do we need to prevent cardiovascular disease?
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/22/2016)... On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security ... solutions for the Biometric Exit Program. The Request for ... (CBP), explains that CBP intends to add biometrics to ... United States , in order to deter visa ... Logo - ...
(Date:6/9/2016)... , June 9, 2016  Perkotek an innovation leader in attendance control systems ... seamlessly log work hours, for employers to make sure the right employees are actually ... ... ... ...
(Date:6/2/2016)... 2, 2016   The Weather Company , an IBM ... an industry-first capability in which consumers will be able to ... ask questions via voice or text and receive relevant information ... Marketers have long sought an advertising solution that ... be personal, relevant and valuable; and can scale across millions ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... 24, 2016 Epic Sciences unveiled a ... susceptible to PARP inhibitors by targeting homologous recombination ... The new test has already been incorporated into ... cancer types. Over 230 clinical trials ... pathways, including PARP, ATM, ATR, DNA-PK and WEE-1. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... to announce the launch of their brand, UP4™ Probiotics, into Target stores nationwide. ... years, is proud to add Target to its list of well-respected retailers. This ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 Houston ... with the Cy-Fair Sports Association to serve as ... the agreement, Houston Methodist Willowbrook will provide sponsorship ... and connectivity with association coaches, volunteers, athletes and ... with the Cy-Fair Sports Association and to bring ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... --  EpiBiome , a precision microbiome engineering company, today ... from Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). The financing will allow ... drug development efforts, as well as purchase additional lab ... been an incredible strategic partner to us – one ... provide," said Dr. Aeron Tynes Hammack , EpiBiome,s ...
Breaking Biology Technology: