Scientists discovered a rare heart bone in chimpanzees


Wild chimpanzees are imperiled, and cardiovascular disease is very common in this species. Understanding their hearts is vital in making medical advances and dealing with their health and conservation.

Recently, a team of experts at the University of Nottingham have discovered a rare heart bone in some chimpanzees. Scientists believe that this heart bone could play a vital role in managing their health and conservation.

The bone called os cordis is found in very few species of animals. It measures a few millimeters in size and more likely to be present in chimps with idiopathic myocardial fibrosis.

Lead author Dr. Catrin Rutland from the university said, “The discovery of a new bone in a new species is a rare event, especially in chimps which have such similar anatomy to people. It raises the question as to whether some people could have an os cordis too.”

For the study, scientists used multiple techniques such as an advanced imaging method called micro-computed tomography. This enabled the hearts to be scanned at much higher magnifications than the standard hospital or veterinary CT scans.

Dr. Sophie Moittié from the University said, “Looking for ways to help chimps with heart disease is essential. Understanding what is happening to their hearts helps us manage their health.”

Scientists are still searching for the function of an os cordis. Yet, this study shows that cartilage was present in addition to bone, which gives insight into the mechanisms via which bone growth started. The scientists also showed that the heart bone was present in male and female chimps of differing ages.

Numerous recommendations have been given for the explanations for an os cordis developing. The bone may support the fundamental heart valves, create due to heart disease, or even alter the electrical system, which controls the heart.

Delving into the chimp os cordis
Delving into the chimp os cordis

Dr. Rutland said“This research has brought together researchers and veterinary professionals, working on a common aim to advance chimpanzee health and conservation.”

The heart bone is present in many bovines (cattle, ox, and buffalo), and is often quite large, butchers even remove it some that meat can be used for soups. Sheep, otters, dogs, and camels sometimes have the heart bone too. Sometimes the os cordis is present in most animals of a species, but in other cases, it is associated with heart disease.

Journal Reference:
  1. Sophie Moittié et al., Discovery of os cordis in the cardiac skeleton of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-66345-7
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