Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Adder’s fork and lizard leg – Shakespeare’s witches were on to something… While we’ve moved from potions to medicines, some ingredients seem oddly familiar.
As a life-long reptile enthusiast, I always love a good reason to sing the praise, value, and successes of reptiles in science. I couldn’t resist sharing a recent genetic finding in Komodo Dragons that made new this week. While the finding is interesting, I liked it as part of the larger picture – sometimes you find really useful things in the weirdest of places. I like to keep these in my arsenal of answers for the ever present “why do we care about x?”, especially in an era where genomes and large-scale (^_^) studies of non-model organisms are possible with the right funding.
Blood of dragon, for infections:
48 new potential cationic antimicrobial proteins found in komodo dragon saliva, using database searches and backed up by testing. Of the eight tested, seven were found active against S. aureus and one against P. aeruginosa.
Blood of gator, also for infections:
The same lab had previously found 45 cationic peptides from de-novo sequencing were identified in the American Alligator. Eight were tested and five showed significant antibacterial activity against one of several bacteria.
Gila Monster saliva – for diabetes, brain health and weight loss:
This is my personal favorite. Gila monsters are one of a few venomous lizards in the world (Komodo dragons are another). This venom was found to have several interesting peptides, but the most interesting is exendin-4, a glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist. On the list of clinically significant uses: