It is not much of an understatement to say that giraffe anatomy is remarkable given that a typical giraffe is roughly as tall as a house and as heavy as a Toyota Camry.
These magnificent animals, however, are not just exceptional because they are the tallest mammals in the world; they are also native to the savannah grasslands of Africa. Other unique biological traits that have developed in their bodies have assisted in their survival but may be fatal to people and other animals.
Among others Extremely high blood pressure is really a sign of health for giraffes, whereas low blood pressure poses a potential threat to their lives. Scientists have been studying the advantages of high blood pressure in giraffes and finding interesting findings that could one day have ramifications for our own health, even though the reasons why aren’t entirely understood. Scientists now have ideas for treating hypertension in humans thanks to the biological adaptations that enable giraffes to avoid the negative effects of high blood pressure.
What Causes High Blood Pressure in Giraffes?
Like humans, giraffes depend on continuous blood flow to carry oxygen and nourishment to their brains and hearts. However, unlike humans, giraffes’ brains and hearts can be as much as 10 feet apart, making it difficult for the animals’ hearts to transport the blood necessary for their brains to function. A giraffe’s lengthy neck and legs make it difficult for the blood in its circulatory system to reach its head. In order to defy gravity and raise their blood to such a height, giraffes actually need high blood pressure.
A giraffe’s normal blood pressure is substantially greater than that of a human, at 280/180 mmHg as opposed to a human’s 120/80 mmHg. Giraffes nonetheless possess the same vascular, connective, and visceral tissues as the majority of other mammals, despite the advantages of having high blood pressure. These organs and structures typically suffer harm from chronic high blood pressure or hypertension. Giraffes, however, have unique characteristics that enable them to withstand the pressure of their own blood.
The Hearts Of Giraffes Are Special
Under pressure, liquid can become abrasive enough to cut things and hard enough to scour surfaces. In humans, hypertension causes the walls of organs to thicken and eventually harden, a process known as fibrosis, which can prevent those bodily structures from functioning properly. While this is not the same as a pressure washer being sprayed inside our internal organs, it can still have a similar effect.
One of the main causes of heart failure in people is hypertension-induced fibrosis. People who have hypertension may also experience the same harmful process in their kidneys. Life-threatening and drastically changing situations can both exist.
This kind of organ failure brought on by hypertension does not affect giraffes. A collection of five specialized genes were found in each of the 136 giraffes studied to have altered the heart tissue after they died naturally. The first indication of the damage caused by hypertension is the thicker heart on one side of the body.
But none of their hearts had advanced enough to show the fibrosis-related stiffness. In giraffes, four of the specialised genes promote the development of fibrosis, whereas the remaining two genes prevent the development of fibrosis in the organs.
Scientists believe that the combined opposing effects of these genes alter a giraffe’s heart so that it can enlarge in response to prolonged exposure to high blood pressure, though the precise function of these genes is still unknown. It’s possible that a genetic mechanism prevents a giraffe’s heart from becoming fibrotic and suffering damage from the pressure. There is optimism that these biological indicators can be extracted and possibly used in human medication as scientists understand more about giraffe DNA.
Additionally, their legs are special.
Swelling in the lower extremities is one of the more prevalent indications of hypertension in people. High blood pressure can force water out of cells, where it then collects and swells adjacent tissues. Because they prevent fluid from accumulating in bodily tissues, compression stockings can help alleviate this hypertension-related problem.
What other intriguing feature of giraffe anatomy exists? They sort of have built-in compression stockings. Their connective tissue is inherently much thicker and tougher around their legs than it is elsewhere. When giving injections to giraffes receiving treatment, researchers came across this tissue. Because the connective tissue acts as a type of barricade to stop the swelling that could otherwise happen due to the animals’ high blood pressure, it requires significantly more pressure to inject giraffes in their legs than it does in any of the animals’ other body regions.
Additionally, researchers are examining the unique kind of thickened arteries seen near giraffes’ knees. Scientists believe that giraffes can regulate the rate of blood flow to their legs by actively restricting these arteries, but more research is required to confirm this theory. Their bodies can handle high blood pressure much better when it flows at a reduced volume.
What Benefits Do Giraffes Have for People With High Blood Pressure?
Currently, decreasing blood pressure with lifestyle modifications and drugs such ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, and vasodilators is the main focus of managing hypertension in humans. Some hypertensive patients require lifetime treatment with escalating doses of medication to control their high blood pressure, and these drugs can have unsettling side effects.
Diet and exercise don’t always lead to changes because some people acquire hypertension at a young age or regardless of diet and lifestyle choices. Uncontrolled hypertension is one of the most significant pregnancy problems, and some treatment options can be harmful to expectant mothers. Inducing preterm labour is frequently the safest course of action, but doing so carries a high risk for both the mother and the child.
For those whose high blood pressure has no known underlying cause, medication that may stop some of the negative health impacts of hypertension could significantly alter their lives. Giraffe genes enable the animals’ hearts to survive high blood pressure without becoming damaged, and a similar form of drug could stop the progressive consequences of organ failure in people. There is optimism that medication derived from giraffe genes could alleviate the symptoms of hypertension.
The arteries and connective tissues of giraffes have inspired scientists working in the field of biomimetics to develop novel medical gadgets. Support stockings’ beneficial effects could be amplified by tools that could fortify or support the connective tissue in a person’s leg.
Scientists may be able to develop tools that can strengthen and selectively constrict the particular arteries that are most vulnerable to harm from hypertension, much like how science has already developed shunts and stents that improve the performance of our circulatory systems.
People whose bodies have already been harmed by high blood pressure may live longer thanks to these advancements.
Giraffes are one of the many living marvels found in the natural world. The scientific world is unsure of what the future may hold for effective human medicines based on giraffe biology, but it is becoming more and more obvious that there is much we can learn from these evolutionary wonders.