Alligators to the rescue
Posted June 2, 2008
Last week I linked to one good reason for saving endangered plants and wildlife: wonder. But there are more practical reasons as well. As I've noted before, not least of these reasons is the fact that many of the pharmaceuticals we take for granted (digitalis is one example) are derived from the other creatures with whom we share the earth. The latest potential contributor to humanity's well being: the American alligator.
It turns out that alligator blood contains powerful peptides, a kind of protein, that scientists believe are an adaption to the need to fight off infection in a hot, wet, tropical environment (getting cut is an occupational hazard if you're an alligator). These peptides have already shown promise in the lab for stopping infections caused by severe ulcers, burns and--most promisingly--antibiotic resistant "superbugs," such as MRSA.
All of which is somewhat ironic, of course, considering that we nearly drove alligators to extinction in the first half of the last century. It wasn't until we protected alligators under a predecessors to the Endangered Species Act--a law which sees the wisdom in preserving all forms of life, no matter what its reputation--that alligators began to make a comeback.
(Hat tip: ESAblawg).