After the Burmese python gorges on massive quantities of food, its metabolism increases by about 40% and its organs enlarge: its gastrointestinal tract doubles in size, and its heart cells swell by about 40%. No new tissue is generated — the cells grow in a process called hypertrophy. The enlarged heart of the python is not unlike that of the human athlete, heavily muscled and extremely capable. Despite ingesting immense volumes of fat, the heart of the Burmese python never seems to suffer from plaque buildup.
Every four in 10,000 people in the United States have dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease that causes the left ventricle of the heart to become enlarged. Turkey hearts can serve as a model for the human heart as it undergoes heart failure and cardiomyopathy because their hearts are very similar. By countering a mutated form of cardiac muscle protein with another form of mutated protein, a heart’s normal condition can be restored.