Scientists in the United Kingdom have discovered a rare bone, called cordis, in chimpanzees with a common heart condition. The implications of this discovery could extend to humans, who share a close genetic relationship with chimpanzees.
Cattle, buffaloes and sheep have them. Otters, camels and dogs too. Primates, not so much – at least that’s what scientists thought.
Cordis bone, a small bone found in the hearts of some animals, is also found in some chimpanzees, according to research published today in Scientific Reports. This is the first time that the cordis bone has been detected in a large species of monkey.
The rare bone structure has been mainly found in chimpanzees with idiopathic myocardial fibrosis (IMF), in which the heart potentially develops into overwhelming scar tissue. The IMF is common in many animals, including chimpanzees and humans. This unexpected discovery could lead to better treatments for chimpanzees, a species for which cardiovascular disease is common. In addition, research, led by the University of Nottingham School of Medicine and Veterinary Sciences, could also apply to humans, given our close relationship with chimpanzees.
“The discovery of a new bone in a new species is a rare event, especially in chimpanzees who have a similar anatomy to the population,” said Catrin Rutland, co-author of the study, at a university in Nottingham . Press release. “This raises the question of whether some people might have a cord bone, too. “
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For the new study, 16 chimpanzees, some with the IMF and others without, had their hearts scanned with x-ray computed tomography. No animal was to be killed, as all chimpanzees died from natural causes in European zoos. The scans generated clear, high-resolution images showing the tiny cord bone, which is only a few millimeters in diameter.
For anatomy nerds out there, this “hyperdense” bone structure was found inside the right fibrous trine. Simply described, this fleshy part of the heart forms a link between the aortic, mitral and tricuspid valves.
Some chimpanzee hearts also had cartilago cordis, that is, the formation of cartilage. This is an important discovery, because cartilage may have something to do with the growth of rare bone structure, because cartilage has the potential to turn into bone.
“Three of our 16 chimpanzees had a cordis bone and one had a cartilago bone, and all four were severely affected by the IMF,” Rutland told Gizmodo in an email. “The other 12 chimpanzees had no cord or cartilaginous bones but had lower levels of fibrosis or no fibrosis at all. So we linked the fact that we had a cord bone to a more severe fibrosis. Male and female chimpanzees, young and old may have cordis bone, so gender and age did not make a difference, although in general older chimpanzees are more likely to have a more severe IMF . “
As noted, the presence of cordis in chimpanzees gives rise to suspicions that it can also appear in humans under similar circumstances. As the authors note in their study:
However, it should be noted that not all chimpanzees affected by the IMF had bone / cartilago cordis, so it can be used as an indicator rather than a diagnostic tool. The possibility of cordis and cartilago cordis in humans with similar cardiovascular disorders should be considered. In conclusion, this new discovery of cordis bones and a cartilago cordis, in the hearts of chimpanzees, highlights the need to continue cardiovascular investigations in this species and other species, including humans, using the latest technologies to acquire valuable clinical and anatomical knowledge.
It should be noted that the correlation is not a causal link. The link between the IMF and bone cordis still needs to be settled. And of course, this strange bone has never been detected in humans – arguably the most studied animal on the planet. To suddenly find this rare bone structure in the human heart would be a surprise, but it may be something that scientists have ignored.
Finding new parts of the human anatomy or physiological processes not previously detected is rare, but come. Recent examples include body parts resembling lizards in fetuses, a new type of blood vessel in the bones, a organ on our skin that treats pain and a salamander ability regenerate parts of the body.