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Current Common Marmoset Research

Current Research - Page 5

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III. Biomedical Research

A) Coronary Heart Disease Model

  • Heart disease is the result of deposition of fat or cholesterol in the heart artery that causes the decrease in blood flow.
  • From the heart disease studies of marmosets researchers have begun to notice beneficial effects of dietary fish oils

Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the most frequent cause of death in the United States. In 1997, it caused one out of every five deaths. CHD is caused by an atherosclerotic narrowing of the heart artery. Atherosclerosis is the build-up of hardened fat or cholesterol within a blood vessel that causes the decrease of blood flow. Many health authorities recommend a diet low in cholesterol as a way to decrease chances of heart disease. Researchers have been studying dietary components in the common marmoset to try and predict what types of food will reduce the risks of heart disease. To do this researchers fed the marmosets diets containing one of the following:

  • saturated animal fats
  • polyunsaturated fatty acids from marine fish oil
  • polyunsaturated fatty acids from plants
  • low fat

These diets were tested by comparison of cardiac functions such as heart-rate (your pulse rate per minute) or systolic blood pressure (the blood pressure measured while the heart is contracting).

In addition to these tests researchers have developed a way to test the stability of the heart and its vulnerability to disturbances in its normal rhythm that cause the heart to pump less effectively. Disturbance in the heart rhythm is called cardiac arrhythmia and can be caused when the arteries to the heart are blocked, as they are in heart disease. Researchers can test the stability of the heart in marmosets by slowly increasing electrical stimulation to the marmoset heart of common marmosets until the electrical stimulation causes heart muscle contractions. The less stable heart will start showing muscle contractions at a lower electrical stimulation than a stable heart because it is not as strong and, therefore, not as resistant to electrical disruption. Researchers measure the impact of diets on the stability of the marmoset heart by employing this electrical stimulation technique. Animals fed the different diets listed above were compared on the basis of the electrical stimulation to see how the diets affected heart function. The hearts that required more stimulation were stronger than the others. The results implied that the diets of marmosets with more stable heart rhythms were more beneficial for reducing heart disease and the abnormal heart rhythms. From these techniques, researchers have begun to notice an effect of fish oils, obtained from a diet rich in fish, as having a beneficial and protective effect on heart disease. With continuing research in this area using marmoset monkeys, perhaps the leading cause of death in the United States will no longer be CHD.

Further Reading:

Charnock, J. S. (1999). Fish Oil Supplemented Diets and Cardiac Function in Marmoset Monkeys: A Non-human Primate Model for the Study of Cardiac Arrhythmia. Nutrition Research, 19 (9), 1429-1435.

McLennan, P. L., Barnden, L. R., Bridle, T. M., Abeywardena, M. Y., & Charnock, J. S. (1992). Dietary fat Modulation of Left Ventricular Ejection Fraction in the Marmoset Due to Enhanced Filling. Cardiovascular Research, 26, 871-877.

Additional Related Links:

American Heart Association: http://www.americanheart.org

Center for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/od/oc/media/fact/cardiova.htm

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Text by Rebecca Dallwig.