Neck Envy

Photo of giraffe neck with open sky background.

You wanna talk about HIGH blood pressure! 

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying ask a giraffe!

Giraffes have loooong necks. So pushing blood ALL the way up to their brains requires VERY high blood pressure! But in humans, high blood pressure causes heart damage. So, what gives with our statuesque friends? 

Turns out, giraffes have UNIQUE mutations in a gene keeping their hearts healthy. Hmm, can these mutations help OTHER animals avoid heart damage?

Chang Liu at Northwestern Polytechnical University in China and colleagues wondered.

To test this tall tale, they introduced the giraffe gene mutations to mice. They then gave a high-blood pressure-causing drug to these mice and to normal mice for a month. Then they measured the mice’s blood pressure and any heart damage they developed.

Results? The normal mice developed high blood pressure, but the giraffe-mutation mice did NOT! The mutated mice also had TEN percent less scarring in their hearts. The researchers hope these findings can eventually help treat heart disease in humans!

What other secrets do giraffe necks hold? We’ll find out NECK-st time!

Reference: Liu, C., Gao, J., Cui, X., Li, Z., Chen, L., Yuan, Y., Zhang, Y., Mei, L., Zhao, L., Cai, D., Hu, M., Zhou, B., Li, Z., Qin, T., Si, H., Li, G., Lin, Z., Xu, Y., Zhu, C., & Yin, Y. (2021). A towering genome: Experimentally validated adaptations to high blood pressure and extreme stature in the giraffe. Science Advances, 7(12), eabe9459.