For scientists, the scope of discovery can range anywhere from the totally straight forward to the totally weird. And if we’re exploring the world of the weird, one animal seems to come up quite a bit, the duck billed platypus. A recent study from the land down under has medical researchers asking a pretty big question, can the platypus help save lives? Listen to this Question Your World radio report produced by the Science Museum of Virginia to learn more.
Let’s talk about this oddball from the animal kingdom. Yes, this thing is totally weird, but a fascinating creature for scientists for exactly that reason, it’s just that strange! For starters there’s the obvious bill, feet, tail and laying eggs stuff, but keep in mind it is also venomous! In 2016 scientists discovered that platypus venom has a hormone which could potentially help stabilize blood sugar, a very hopeful study for helping those with type 2 diabetes. We did a whole piece on that that you should check out to further see why medical scientists are so curious about this creature. But wait there’s more, scientists weren’t quite done with the world’s weirdest animal just yet.
A recent study just shed light on antibacterial properties found in platypus milk. It’s no wonder that a bizarre creature like this has some bizarre biochemistry as well. Researchers studied some of this animal’s milk samples and were able to characterize a new protein. Scientists were then able to replicate the protein in a lab and observed a never before seen protein fold which they aptly nicknamed “Shirley Temple” because it looked like the child star’s iconic curls.
There’s further study needed but they hypothesized that the development of this antibacterial protein was an evolutionary adaption to help protect their young while nursing. Regardless, in a world where bacterial resistance to antibiotics is growing, this new discovery is big news. Now further studies will continue, but a potential new variable in helping save lives is always pretty exciting.
After making this big discovery the researchers studying the platypus milk of course went on to have a g’day.