The Secrets of Life Database
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  • 11 Jun 2009 – We humans are going to benefit the most when we understand this tree following is a list of animals that have contributed to medicine.
  • 8 May 2020 – But like plants, which have been part of our medicine cabinets ever… the pursuit of animal parts has already contributed to several extinctions…
  • The response of a startled sea cucumber has inspired a new material that could one day be used to build brain implants for patients with Parkinson’s disease. The material can rapidly switch from being rigid to flexible and vice versa, and could be used to make advanced brain electrodes which are stiff when implanted, yet supple inside the body…
  • Sea cucumbers could provide a potential new weapon to block transmission of the malaria parasite, a study suggests. The slug-like creature produces a protein, lectin, which impairs development of the parasites. An international team genetically engineered mosquitoes – which carry the malaria parasite – to produce the same protein in their gut when feeding
  • The remarkable adhesive abilities of geckos and mussels have been combined to create a super-sticky material. Unlike other adhesives inspired by the nimble reptiles, “geckel” can attach to both wet and dry surfaces, the team that developed the material says. Its staying power comes from coating fibrous silicone, similar in structure to a gecko’s foot, with a polymer that mimics the “glue” used by mussels. “I envision that adhesive tapes made out of geckel could be used to replace sutures for wound closure, and may also be useful as a water-resistant adhesive for bandages and drug-delivery patches,” said Professor Phillip Messersmith…
  • Ideas that could further exploration in space are coming from a surprising source – animals such as ants, fish and squirrels. The future of space exploration could lie in biomimetics, where engineering meets biology. In effect, it steals nature’s evolutionary tricks to create revolutionary applications… In the future, self-organising systems modelled on ant behaviour could, for example, monitor space shuttles, sensing and repairing damage…
  • A protein responsible for fleas’ astonishing jumping power could be harnessed to repair damaged arteries. They actually extracted the gene from fruit flies and cultured resilin in large quantities in E.coli bacteria.Scientists have taken the gene that produces resilin and used it to create a super-strong rubbery polymer with potential use in surgery.
  • Scientists have discovered that a single-celled organism can negotiate the shortest way through a maze. It means that some of the lowliest creatures in the plant and animal kingdoms, such as slime and amoeba, may not be as primitive as once thought. Pieces of slime mould, an amoeba-like organism, were enticed through a 30-square-centimetre (five-square-inch) maze by the prospect of food at the end of the puzzle. The researchers believe the slime is exhibiting some form of primitive intelligence.
  • Scorpion venom is crucial in a new therapy for an otherwise untreatable form of brain cancer.  Researchers have developed a “man-made” scorpion venom to be used in the treatment of brain tumours. The venom is used as a carrier to deliver radioactive iodine into tumour cells left behind after surgery has removed the bulk of the tumour.
  • There’s a whole world of invertebrate biology out there far more advanced than our own mammalian biology… We see applications in epilepsy, stroke and cardiovascular conditions. Some are in development and one has reached clinical trials…By developing his way of milking the snails, Dr Jon-Paul Bingham, Clarkson University, keeps the animals alive in his lab and learns more about them. He does not need to dissect the “goose that lays the golden egg” to study its venom…
  • Medical science risks missing out on some remarkable new drugs because of the imperilled status of cone snails. The marine molluscs, which live in shallow tropical waters, have powerful venoms that will form the basis of a novel class of strong painkillers. But the animals are now under intense pressure from habitat loss and because their beautiful shells make them the highly prized target for collectors.
  • Researchers are to examine whether different types of snake venom contain chemicals that could prevent heart attacks and strokes. The British Heart Foundation is to fund research being carried out by a joint team from Oxford, Birmingham and Liverpool Universities. Heart attacks and strokes are caused by the clogging up of arteries with fatty material. This can lead to tearing in the weakened blood vessel walls, and the formation of clots. If the clots then become jammed in the blood vessels, they can cut off blood supply to the heart or brain, resulting in a heart attack or stroke. Snake venom is already known to contain a variety or toxins which can either bring on or stop this process.
  • A drug made from rattlesnake venom may be able successfully to treat victims of stroke, researchers have claimed. The researchers claim the experimental drug, called Ancrod, lowers levels of a blood-clotting substance in the blood and may be able to reverse the effects of a stroke. It could also protect against further strokes and is less likely to cause internal bleeding than existing clot-busting drugs, they claim.
  • A poisonous American snake could provide a new weapon to fight breast cancer, according to new research. The protein extracted from the venom of the Southern Copperhead viper slowed the growth of tumours in mice implanted with human breast cancer cells by up to 70%. The protein, contortrostatin (CN), had an even bigger impact on metastasis – the spread of a malignant tumour from its original site. CN reduced tumour spread to the lungs in the mice by 90%.
  • A primitive worm could help to screen new medicines, according to research. Scientists have genetically modified nematode worms (C. elegans) so they avoid and crawl away from certain chemicals. The UK/Dutch team believes the worms could help to provide a simple method for looking at the effectiveness of compounds for new drugs.
  • A 12-year-old boy with a rare illness has been given a new lease of life thanks to a groundbreaking treatment using protein from hamsters.
  • A dazzling insect could help the development of brilliant white, ultra-thin materials, a study suggests. The finger-tip sized Cyphochilus beetle, found in south-east Asia, had a shell whiter than most other materials found in nature, UK researchers said.
  • Nematode worms are less than 1mm long and live in the soil feeding on bacteria… in the future the worms could be modified to carry a range of different human receptors that scientists are targeting for new drugs.
  • Just one metre square of a new super-sticky material inspired by gecko feet could suspend the weight of an average family car, say its inventors. The plastic, known as Synthetic Gecko, has been developed by researchers at aerospace and defence firm BAE Systems.
  • A drug made from the ocean’s sea squirt may help those with a rare form of cancer, research suggests.
  • The ability of worms to convert potentially harmful fats into helpful ones might be harnessed to cut heart disease and strokes…Doctors believe that the worm chemical could help protect the arteries of patients undergoing heart surgery by damping down potentially damaging inflammation.
  • .Scientists have found a gene in a primitive worm that may give vital clues about the development of cancer.
    The gene, in the nematode worm, is similar to the human breast and ovarian cancer gene BRCA1. BRCA1 is known to stop cancer by repairing damaged DNA, but how it does this is not known. Research, by Cancer Research UK and published in Current Biology, may lead to an answer – and new treatments…
  • A tropical worm could one day help to relieve the pain of millions of people with rheumatoid arthritis and similar diseases. Researchers in Scotland have found that secretions from a parasitic worm, called a filarial nematode, have an anti-inflammatory effect.They believe the discovery could help people with autoimmune diseases – conditions where the body’s own immune system attacks itself for no apparent reason.The worm lives off humans and is carried by hundreds of millions of people in the tropics, where the incidence of autoimmune disease is much lower.
  • Sugar found in fruit such as apples can be made into a powerful low carbon biofuel, US researchers say.
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