Dragon’s Blood Could Save Your Life

Dragon’s Blood Could Save Your Life

When you think medicine, chances are that
these come to mind rather than these. What you might not realize is that a lot of
times, potential drugs and other really useful compounds come from some truly bizarre places
in nature. Today we’re looking at why these three unlikely
animals might just save your life one day. Welcome to the remote island of Komodo in
Southeast Indonesia, home to the largest lizard on Earth, the Komodo Dragon. When hunting, these apex predators often rely
on the 57 or more types of dangerous bacteria residing in their saliva to kill their prey. Even though their bacterial bite can take
down animals as large as a buffalo, the dragons themselves seem to be totally resistant to
these deadly bacteria, which drew the attention of scientists. While studying this immune defense in the
blood of dragons, they discovered a peptide called VK25. They predicted that it defended against infections
from bacterial biofilms like the ones found in other dragon’s deadly spit. Biofilms are collections of microorganisms
that stick together and coat a surface, making a hard-to-remove slime. When bacterial biofilms form in humans, they’re
nearly impossible to treat. The VK25 peptide was used as a model to help
build a new synthetic peptide called DRGN-1. In mice, this peptide was highly effective
in treating common bacterial strains that cause pneumonia and even staph infection. But sometimes staph infections can get a bit
out of hand, so out of hand in fact that we may have no way to treat it. A dangerous strain called MRSA (MUR-SUH – Methicillin
Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus), is an infamous superbug that kills upwards of 11,000 Americans
each year. MRSA creates a seemingly impenetrable biofilm
that is highly resistant to antibiotics. So are we in big trouble? Maybe not if this humble sponge has anything
to do with it! Meet the Antarctic Sea Sponge Dendrilla Membrosa. This little sub-zero loving porifera has recently
been under the microscope for its incredible resilience to bacterial infection. The sponges are armed with a really promising
compound called darwinolide. When tested on strains of MRSA, this chemical
had knockout-level antibacterial efficiency, and has shown great promise as becoming one
of the first ever antibiotics against biofilms. Now, obviously it isn’t easy to send barges
down to the antarctic and fish a bunch of sponges to bring back to be used as medicine,
so the icing on the cake here folks is that a synthesis of this molecule is already under
way in the lab This of course isn’t all that oceanic life
has to offer. The 400 million year old horseshoe crab has
been a workhorse in medicine for almost 50 years. When you’re older than the dinosaurs, you
better believe you’ll have some evolutionary tricks up your sleeve, and in this case, look
no further than their freaky blood. Horseshoe crab blood gets its blue hue from
the copper in hemocyanin, rather than our hemoglobin-filled iron-red blood. But what’s really fascinating is its highly
effective immune defense against bacteria. Cells in the blood known as amoebocytes release
proteins that form a gel barrier around any invading bacteria, which stops them in their
tracks. Starting in the late 1960s, scientists realized
they could extract a fluid from the amoebocytes that could form this gel. There are two types of fluid collected from
horseshoe crabs — LAL from the Atlantic and TAL from the pacific. But we’ll focus on LAL. Turns out LAL doesn’t have to be in a crab
to work – anytime it sees the toxic molecules hanging from bacteria like E. coli it clumps
around them. So LAL is used to check medicial instruments,
medicines, or vaccines we inject into ourselves for potentially harmful bacterial byproducts:
squirt some LAL juice into a sample of flu vaccine and if there’s no clumping, you’re
clear to inject that batch into people. These crabs are literally saving our lives. For this reason, one quart of blood can run
a bill of up to $15,000. So as you might expect with liquid gold of
this caliber, the LAL industry has exploded. Half a million horseshoe crabs are bled each
year at milking stations., These milked crabs are later released, but studies suggest that
of 8 – 10%the crabs die when returned. This on top of overfishing and other environmental
factors have made this species vulnerable to extinction, which is bad news. Because of this, chemists are trying to come
up with synthetic versions of LAL or TAL so we can leave our ancient friends alone! There is a lesson in all of this folks, and
it’s loud and clear. We need to do everything we can to protect
nature and to keep our planet healthy. Saving the earth’s ecosystems doesn’t JUST
mean saving all kinds of plants and animals. Those exotic plants and animals might save
your life, too — and who knows what other life saving compounds are out there. So make sure to do your part! Oh, and hit thumbs up and subscribe on the
way out!

20 thoughts on “Dragon’s Blood Could Save Your Life

  1. comodo dragons produce venom.
    It`s not the bacteria with which they kill their prey…..
    I mean how does anyone doing research for this not stumble across this long known fact, and instead spread this myth about bacteria…

  2. Hurray for Natural Products Chemistry!!! This is the field I work in; glad to know the word is spreading about this wonderful and lifesaving field!

  3. There FUQING VENOMOUS recent studies have proven that there bacteria in the saliva is no greater than a three-year-old child there actually Venomous ‘s look it up I’m right

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