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Snake Heart Balloons After Meal

The Burmese python’s heart triples in size after a nice big meal, thanks in part to a special blend of fatty acids.

By | October 28, 2011

Burnese pythonTAMBAKO THE JAGUAR, FLICKR

The heart of the Burmese python, a 15-meter long Asian snake, swells to three times its size after a big meal. The bizarre phenomenon is associated with a mixture of fatty acids circulating in its blood, and could have applications for heart disease treatments in humans, according to a study published Thursday (October 27) in Science.

The python often goes months without eating, then binges, sometimes devouring a whole deer, ScienceNOW reports. To handle this mega-meal, the snake’s metabolism kicks into overdrive and many of its internal organs, including the small intestines and the heart, swell.

To determine how this swelling occurred, researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder, raised dozens of the pythons in their lab and observed changes in their blood chemistry. They found a milky substance composed of fatty acids right after the snakes had a meal. When they injected fasting snakes with the milky fluid, the snake hearts grew.

How the milky fluid causes organ swelling is unclear, but it could have implications for the treatment of heart disease. Having more powerful heart tissue could improve circulation, and the substance could help beef up the hearts of humans with cardiac disease to do just that. The next step is to see whether a similar effect occurs in other species, like mice.

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Comments

Avatar of: sswestendorf

sswestendorf

Posts: 1

October 28, 2011

Why would you use a photo of an albino python to represent a wild animal that is beautiful as it occurs naturally most often?

Avatar of: jburkhart

jburkhart

Posts: 2

October 28, 2011

A 15 meter long Burmese python?  What are you guys smoking??

Avatar of: jburkhart

jburkhart

Posts: 2

October 28, 2011

A 15 meter Burmese python??  What are you guys smoking?

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

October 28, 2011

Why would you use a photo of an albino python to represent a wild animal that is beautiful as it occurs naturally most often?

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

October 28, 2011

A 15 meter long Burmese python?  What are you guys smoking??

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

October 28, 2011

A 15 meter Burmese python??  What are you guys smoking?

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

October 28, 2011

Why would you use a photo of an albino python to represent a wild animal that is beautiful as it occurs naturally most often?

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

October 28, 2011

A 15 meter long Burmese python?  What are you guys smoking??

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

October 28, 2011

A 15 meter Burmese python??  What are you guys smoking?

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

November 28, 2011

MILKY FATTY ACIDS BULGES THE HEART THREE TIMES, THE SAMETHING HAPPENED TO HUMANS, IF INJECTED!

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

November 28, 2011

MILKY FATTY ACIDS BULGES THE HEART THREE TIMES, THE SAMETHING HAPPENED TO HUMANS, IF INJECTED!

Avatar of: Ravi Namby

Ravi Namby

Posts: 17

November 28, 2011

MILKY FATTY ACIDS BULGES THE HEART THREE TIMES, THE SAMETHING HAPPENED TO HUMANS, IF INJECTED!

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