I came across this neat press release from the American Physiological Society which describes new research on understanding how the genes of burmese pythons are actually altered by feeding. Fascinating! The research was published in the May issue of Physiological Genomics. Here is a brief synopsis. For the full story, visit the APS website.
What is so fascinating about Burmese pythons is that their body literally is reconstructed within 3 days of eating resulting in the doubling or organ size and a 10-44 fold increase in metabolism. Then, within about 10 days afterwards, everything returns to the pre-meal state. This remarkable expansion and shrinkage is due to changes in gene expression. The research team focused on the small intestine as it double in mass and ability to absorb nutrients from the food during this expansion. What they discovered was that at least 2,000 genes are altered in the intestines within 6 hours of ingesting a meal.
The other reason that this research is so interesting is that the similarities in how the burmese python's organs work is similar to our own organs. Therefore, according to the study authors, findings from snakes can be applied to understanding the human body and potentially developing new therapies for human diseases, like cancer.
You can read the full press release here.
Andrew AL, Card DC, Ruggiero RP, Schield DR, Adams RH, Pollock DD, Secor SM, Castoe TA. Rapid changes in gene expression direct rapid shifts in intestinal form and function in the Burmese python after feeding. Physiological Genomics. 47: 147-157, 2015.
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