"It was remarkable that the fatty acids identified in the plasma-fed pythons could actually stimulate healthy heart growth in mice," said Harrison. The team also tested the fed python plasma and the fatty acid mixture on cultured rat heart cells, with the same positive results, Harrison said.
The CU-led team also identified the activation of signaling pathways in the cells of fed python plasma, which serve as traffic lights of sorts, said Leinwand. "We are trying to understand how to make those signals tell individual heart cells whether they are going down a road that has pathological consequences, like disease, or beneficial consequences, like exercise," she said.
The prey of Burmese pythons can be up to 100 percent of the constricting snake's body mass, said Leinwand, who holds a Marsico Endowed Chair of Excellence at CU-Boulder. "When a python eats, something extraordinary happens. Its metabolism increases by more than forty-fold and the size of its organs increase significantly in mass by building new tissue, which is broken back down during the digestion process."
The three key fatty acids in the fed python plasma turned out to be myristic acid, palmitic acid and palmitoleic acid. The enzyme that showed increased activity in the python hearts during feeding episodes, known as superoxide dismutase, is a well-known "cardio-protective" enzyme in many organisms, including humans, said Leinwand.
The new Science study grew out of a project Leinwand began in 2006 when she was named a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and awarded a four-year, $1 million undergraduate education grant from the Chevy Chase
|Contact: Leslie Leinwand|
University of Colorado at Boulder