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Fatty acids involved in python heart growth could benefit diseased human heart
Date:10/27/2011

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 indi
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Contact: Chris Bryant
cbryant@ur.ua.edu
205-348-8323
University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa
Source:Eurekalert

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