Science

Weird Science, Weird Life…Magic Panda Blood

Pandas are often used to advertise conservation. They’re endangered and they’re cute. However, a lot of people are starting to lose the love for panda-centric conservation, although there may now be a reason to start feeling that love again.

Pandas refuse to breed and even though they seemed to evolve to be carnivores, they only eat bamboo which means in order to get all the nutrition they require, they need to eat a huge amount of it. In general, it seems like conserving the pandas isn’t something the pandas want to do. People are also starting to get selfish about conservation, focussing on species that are integral to our survival and the food chain, such as bees which are essential for the production of a lot of our food. They may not be as cute as pandas but from a purely selfish point of view, we need them more. Additionally, it seems that if any animal was going to go extinct naturally, without the help of men hunting them or ruining their habitat, it would be pandas. However, pandas may have just proven themselves a useful and worthwhile species as far as humans are concerned.

Pandas may have just proven themselves a useful and worthwhile species as far as humans are concerned.

One of the many apocalyptic-like dangers humans are currently facing is that of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics were, and are, lifesaving drugs that have fundamentally improved human life. However they have been overused, overprescribed, fed to farm animals and seeped into the water systems. When bacteria encounter antibiotics they usually die. However at low doses, or if antibiotics are stopped before the end of the prescription, some bacteria will survive. The ones that survive are the ones who were naturally slightly more resistant and will reproduce creating a slightly more resistant strain. When this occurs repeatedly the bacteria become fully resistant. Bacteria are also able to share their DNA with other bacteria, so the resistance can spread without reproduction as well. MRSA is the most famous resistant bug in this country, but we’re also facing a threat of antibiotic resistant, incurable gonorrhoea (and if that doesn’t make you wear a condom what will?).

Although we now technically don’t actually need the pandas for it, it does raise the question since we’re so close to losing pandas, how many amazing things like this have we already lost due to extinction?

Pandas may be our saviour from this apocalypse. The same pandas that refuse to breed and look incredibly adorably surprised by sneezing. Pandas make their very own antibiotic called cathelicidin-AM in their blood.  Cathelicidin-AM is stronger and quicker than our current antibiotics taking only one hour, as opposed to six, to kill bacteria. It’s also a naturally synthesised peptide so seems to cause much less resistance.

The peptide was identified by scientists at Nanjing Agricultural University, and can be now synthesised in the lab. So although we now technically don’t actually need the pandas for it, it does raise the question since we’re so close to losing pandas, how many amazing things like this have we already lost due to extinction?

Sian Lyons 

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Image Courtesy: foretherock via Flickr 

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