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Pythons hold clue for heart patients

HUMAN heart patients may benefit from a study of hungry pythons, scientists believe.

Fatty acids circulating in the bloodstreams of feeding pythons promote healthy heart growth, research published in the journal Science said today.

A similar effect in humans could make hearts stronger and fitter, like those of athletes.

Previous studies had shown that the hearts of Burmese pythons may grow in mass by 40pc within 24 to 72 hours after a large meal. The speed of the snakes' metabolism can shoot up 40-fold immediately after swallowing prey.

US scientists found a more than 50-fold increase in triglycerides, the main constituent of natural fats and oils, in the blood of Burmese pythons one day after eating.

There was no evidence of fat being deposited in the heart, and the researchers also saw increased activity from a key enzyme known to protect hearts from damage.

hnews@herald.ie