Respect for pythons? Snakes may hold key to treating disease

Studies of snake metabolism may sound prosaic, but researchers at the University of Alabama are discovering surprising truths about how our scaly legless friends process their food, with a possible big payoff. Snake keepers and reptile fans know that snakes often go fasting for some time before they "feast" on their prey, usually an oversized meal that goes on being digested for some time. Scientists studying python digestion are discovering an enormous spike in the metabolic rate after feeding, in which a "torrent of stomach acid" is produced to break down the prey, and their intestines are engorged several times their normal size. The research is now studying the actual DNA involved in the process, with promising future possibilities for treatment of cancers and other human diseases. The full article (not for the snake-squeamish!) can be found here.