Giraffes are extreme. Given their long necks, their blood pressure is 2.5 times higher than ours, which ensures that oxygenated blood makes it all the way up to their head. Having high blood pressure, however, is simply a normal characteristic of being a giraffe.
A new study published in Science Advances explored the giraffe genome to identify genes that might help protect the cardiovascular system of giraffes by comparing their genes to those of 50 other mammals. Through these studies they identified mutations in the FGFRL1 gene that is associated with skeletal as well as cardiovascular diseases in humans as well as mice. Using CRISPR technology, they recreated the giraffe mutations in the mouse FGFRL1 gene and then administered a drug to cause high blood pressure. While normal mice treated with the drug developed high blood pressure, the mice with the giraffe mutations had a mild increase in blood pressure, but stayed healthy. Could this perhaps lead to a new treatment for hypertension?
C Liu, J Gao, X Cui, Z Li, L Chen, Y Yuan, Y Zhang, L Mei, L Zhao, D Cai, M Hu, B Zhou, Z Li, T Qin, H Si, G Li, Z Lin, Y Xu, C Zhu, Y Yin, C Zhang, W Xu, Q Li, K Wang, MTP Gilbert, R Heller, W Wang, J Huang, Q Qiu. A towering genome: Experimentally validated adaptations to high blood pressure and extreme stature in the giraffe. Science Advances. 7(12):eabe9459, 2021.