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Snake Blood: The S-s-secret to Heart Health?

heart disease

The latest discovery by medical researchers may just hold a clue to treating or even preventing some of the most deadly heart conditions found in today’s society. While heart attacks and heart disease in America are all too common, the potential source of a cure is anything but.

Biologists at the University of Colorado in Boulder have been studying a group of young Burmese pythons and their incredible ability to enlarge their own hearts. These scaly snakes eat very rarely, going weeks or months in between meals. When they finally do put forth the energy to catch their next meal, it usually comes in the form of animals much larger than their own slinky stature.

Pigs and deer are both fair game when a python is looking for its dinner. It isn’t exactly what pythons eat that caught scientists’ eye, though, but what happens to their physiology when the snakes swallow their prey whole.

After ingesting a whole animal, a python’s internal organs actually grow, increasing to nearly 40% larger than their usual size. For up to two weeks while the serpent digests his meal, the heart remains enlarged until it slowly returns to its normal size.

Further studies into the mysterious growing hearts have revealed that a variation in python blood enables the organ swelling and also provides essential heart protection. While humans have a small amount of fat content in our blood, doctors warn against letting too much blood collect for fear of heart disease or heart attacks.

In snakes, however, the opposite appears to be true. Python blood was found to have 50 times more fat during digestion periods than normal. This fat enlarges the heart, providing their body with extra energy necessary to digest such a large intake.

These new findings could offer potential hope to patients with weak hearts who are unable to exercise. If these patients could have their hearts artificially enlarged, they may be able to enjoy the benefits of increased circulation without enduring the strain of physical activity.

Will cardiologists be prescribing snake blood as a treatment anytime soon? In short, no. However, if scientists are able to understand the molecular mechanisms behind this python trait, they may be able to apply the same science to a treatment for human conditions.

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