The Burmese Python has come under a tremendous amount of scrutiny of late, primarily for controversy surrounding a self-sustaining population of the non-native snake species in the Florida Everglades. Fears of giant snakes taking over the country and the associated hysteria make for good media headlines and ample fodder for headline hungry politicians, and have even led to legislation seeking to ban the ownership of large constrictors. Given the beating the poor Burmese Python has taken in the press and in Washington, we thought we’d quickly flag an interesting piece of research related to the Burmese Python than may have positive consequences for human health! Read on if interested.
Research done by Leslie Leinwand and her colleagues at the University of Coloroda in Boulder and published in October of 2011 in Science shows that Burmese Pythons enlarge their hearts by as much as 40% following large meals. Researchers were able to isolate a group of fatty acids that work in combination to trigger the increase in heart size. These fatty acids - myristic, palmitic, and palmitoleic acid - are produced in varying quantities in humans. Furthermore, the research team was able to use these three fatty acids to boost the mass of a heart chamber in lab mice by 10% in little more than a week.
Researchers hope these findings may provide avenues for treating human hearts and promoting healthy heart growth in patients with cardiovascular problems. While such innovations are still a long-way off, we think this is another example of the myriad ways snakes (and other creatures for that matter) can provide meaningful long-term benefits to mankind. It’s a powerful argument for endangered species conservation, for every time we lose a species we lose an opportunity for discovery down the road. We also think it’s an entry on the positive side of the ledger for the Burmese Python, a magnificent gentle giant of the reptile world that has not had a lot of friends of late!