In Search of Ponies: Many answers lie in vessels

One would be lucky to have heart like theirs. They never get their due, what with all the lion heart references and such.

But even at an average of 7 millimeters long — about the size of seven mustard seeds — their teeny, rapidly beating hearts might just be the biggest of all.

They fight what would seem to be insurmountable odds, drive for survival casting them into a scavenger's life like few others.

There really isn't anything they won't eat — crumbs, scraps, trash, medicine, toothpaste, chewing gum, textiles, wood, paper — if their little teeth can split off a piece, it's over the lips and to the hips, regardless of what it is.

It's such a desperate little-big appetite for life that it sometimes goes the other way, ironically compelling them to eat things that drop the curtain.

It's a risky life for sure, venturing into unfriendly territory, squatting in places occupied by creatures who want to kill at first sight and hunger so deep they literally eat everything.

With so many ways to die, nature was kind enough to issue a propensity for reproduction, balance to the scales of destiny, so to speak.

Thus, mixed into the base-level survival, scavenging and trying not to die one of the many deaths that avail themselves, there is the element of nesting, nurturing, protecting and providing for young.

Surely they know that each venture through a crevice could mean permanently leaving behind their nest of utterly dependent and helpless babies — doomed to languish in the dark without a lifeline.

Yes, that takes heart indeed.

Were humans to face the same risk every day walking out the door to hunt and gather, no doubt fewer would venture out at all.

Yet tucked within the small body of the mouse beats a huge heart, one that pushes forward against the odds, struggles for sustenance, thrives on the subpar and stares death in the eyes at virtually every turn.

It's a hard life and one that moves fast on every level, the prosperous among them lucky if they see a third birthday.

And yet, those traits are but a little of the magic found in the heart of a mouse.

Ironic though it may be, scientists have found evidence suggesting the Fountain of Youth may actually flow through the minute ventricles of a young mouse's heart.

A team of researchers from leading institutions published their findings in a May article titled "Young at Heart." Through research on the cardiovascular systems of mice, they discovered a substance in the blood of young mice which, when introduced into the circulatory of older mice, reversed aging of their hearts.

Over a period of four weeks, the hearts of older mice used in the study literally regressed in the conditions brought on by age, resulting in reduced size and molecular remodeling.

An exciting discovery, scientists are already examining the potential benefits for humans, particularly those threatened by potential heart failure.

It's no wonder the discovery hasn't been made before, to the contrary, it's surprising it was stumbled on at all, especially since it has, as of yet, been accomplished only through a procedure which joins the circulatory systems of young and old.

As a nuisance creature, it's difficult for most to appreciate mice and certainly there is little sympathy for their lot in life — their needs coming into conflict with human sensibilities too often for comfort.

Perhaps that's why nature tucked a little gem in the most unlikely, unappreciated and disregarded of vessels — so that in the off chance anyone ever thought to look, they might realize the little guys' hearts aren't just worthy of respect, they might even warrant envy.

Sharna Johnson is a writer who is always searching for ponies. You can reach her at: insearchofponies@gmail.com or on the web at: www.insearchofponies.blogspot.com

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