Monday, October 31, 2011

What Happens After a Python Gorges May Help Human Hearts

BOULDER, Colo. — Pythons are known for their enormous appetites. In a single meal they can devour animals at least as big as they are — deer, alligators pigs and house pets, for example.
Equally remarkable is what happens inside the python as it digests its prey. Within a day, its heart and other organs can double in size. The metabolic rate and production of insulin and lipids soar.
Then, like an accordion, the python’s organs return to normal size in just a few days. Metabolism slows. Then the snake can fast for months, even a year, without losing muscle mass or showing any ill effects, ready to ambush new prey.
How this process happens so rapidly is a biological mystery with important implications for human health, particularly when it comes to heart failure. Now scientists at the University of Colorado here are reporting that they have partly solved it.
Understanding such exaggerated variations, the researchers say, could help them develop novel ways to delay, prevent, treat or even reverse various hereditary and acquired human diseases.
Pharmaceutical companies have scientifically manipulated substances from other reptiles to develop marketed drugs. For example, Byetta, a diabetes drug, is derived from a hormone found in Gila monster saliva.

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