Some species of turtles are able to winter right infrozen lakes, where the only source of oxygen is water with tiny air bubbles. Having slowed down their metabolism, animals can remain in a state of sleep for up to six months - while, for reasons unknown before, their hearts remain healthy. Researchers from the University of Manchester have been able to figure out the reason for this amazing phenomenon. According to them, turtles have such vitality due to genetic changes obtained during their stay in the nests.
When turtles are in the embryonic, orthe initial period of development, they get the minimum amount of oxygen - about 11% of the total available volume. Being in extreme conditions, their cardiac structure and functions begin to change dramatically, becoming resistant to oxygen starvation. After working out, this skill remains in turtles for life.
The heart can live without oxygen
Scientists explained the vitality of their hearts by saying thatdue to genetic changes, their cells are less oxidized due to toxic, non-renewable forms of oxygen. Also, changes allow hearts to contract in a rhythm sufficient for life.
Oxygen starvation during the development of the embryo gives cardiac cells resistance to toxic forms of oxygen, which lead to oxidation, the authors of the study explained.
Where do turtles winter?
Being immured in a thick layer of ice,turtles can only replenish their oxygen supply due to vessels in the back of the body, which they leave in unfrozen water. This process of oxygen absorption is called cloacal respiration, and it can last more than three months. If the winter is delayed and the ice does not allow them to completely get out into the air, the turtles still risk dying due to oxygen starvation.
Scientists hope that one day this discoveryallow them to improve the performance of human hearts in the absence of sufficient air. In theory, such a procedure could be useful for firefighters, underwater researchers, and, of course, astronauts. For example, it will be very nice if the first colonizers of Mars can walk on an uncharted planet without any equipment.
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