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Imagine That! - Minnows -- Human Cardiology

Imagine That!  Minnows -- Human Cardiology
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Imagine That! - Minnows -- Human Cardiology

Credit: NSF/Finger Lakes Productions International

Audio Transcript:

Researchers casting for clues on how human hearts handle fats and sugars used minnows for bait -- and landed a big one.

Imagine that!

(SOUND: cast fishing reel/transition to heartbeat)

A salt-water minnow's heart, when removed from its body, will continue to beat for several hours. This unusual characteristic is precisely what allowed researchers recently to uncover the genetic solution to the heart disease puzzle. The ability to examine a heart as it processes fats and sugars makes the little minnow a big catch for researchers studying the genetics of human heart metabolism.

Taking a closer look at these hearts clued researchers in to the fact that individuals of the same species can often process fats and sugars very differently -- including humans. That may explain why some hearts can thrive on burgers (SOUND: sizzling) while others must always strive for five.

(SOUND: crunch of apple)

And, why cholesterol-lowering drugs work for some and not for others. Douglas Crawford at the University of Miami tells us what he learned from the minnow.

Crawford: "If you had high cholesterol, the drugs that you may need may actually be different than the drugs that I may need, and so if we could profile individuals, it may be possible to personalize medicine for those individuals."

In treating a world of one-of-a-kind hearts, one size does not fit all. I'm Eric Phillips.

"Imagine That!" covers projects funded by the U.S. government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you by you! Learn more at

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