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Alligator Blood May Be Source of New Antibiotics

Zonk posted about 6 years ago | from the darn-tasty-eating-too dept.

Medicine 265

esocid writes "Biochemists from McNeese State University have described how proteins in gator blood may provide a source of powerful new antibiotics to help fight infections associated with diabetic ulcers and severe burns. This new class of drug could also crack so-called 'superbugs' that are resistant to conventional medication. Previous studies have showed alligators have an unusually strong immune system; unlike humans, alligator immune systems can defend against microorganisms such as fungi, viruses, and bacteria without having prior exposure to them. Scientists believe that this is an evolutionary adaptation to promote quick wound healing, as alligators are often injured during fierce territorial battles."

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265 comments

Cue TMNTs (3, Funny)

esocid (946821) | about 6 years ago | (#23000688)

I just can't shake the image of leatherhead from teenage mutant ninja turtles from my mind now. whatcouldpossiblygowrong?

In that vein (3, Funny)

explosivejared (1186049) | about 6 years ago | (#23000938)

I'll tell you what could go wrong:

evolutionary adaptation to promote quick wound healing

An angry Wolverine, the four horseman Wolverine to be exact, sues for prior art, and on a technicality gains control of the entire human population's genome. This would quite literally usher in "the" Apocolypse.

Re:Cue TMNTs (2, Funny)

jaymzter (452402) | about 6 years ago | (#23001002)

In related news, Dr Curt Connors of Everglades Patch, Florida has filed a patent suit against the University for misappropriation of his intellectual property.

Re:Cue TMNTs (1, Offtopic)

Stonent1 (594886) | about 6 years ago | (#23001344)

The problem is, alligator is not Kosher and probably not Halal (but I don't know for sure). I'm not sure how animal products work into medications, but some such as Armour Thyroid use dessicated pork thyroid glands as an ingredient and may not be Kosher.

Re:Cue TMNTs (3, Insightful)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 6 years ago | (#23001564)

I'm going to get flamed for this but here goes anyway: if someone let's their religion dictate what medication or treatment they can or cannot receive, they have no one but themselves to blame for their illnesses or early death.


Like this couple [groundreport.com] for example. I'm sure there are hundreds of other similar cases you can find with little effort.

The joke about a doctor asking their patient if they believe in ID or evolution determining whether they get a flu shot is very appropriate in this situation.

Re:Cue TMNTs (5, Interesting)

MrNaz (730548) | about 6 years ago | (#23001724)

I am a Muslim, and I can say that in Islam, there is a blanket overruling of all prohibited substances in the course of saving a life, such as eating pork in starvation situations or deriving medicine from alcoholic sources. Deriving medication from pigs would be allowed, and so too would medicine from alligator blood.

Most opiate analgesics and anaesthetics are, for example, prohibited under the intoxication rule (the one that prohibits alcohol), but are allowed in medical situations. Same for alcohol used in field treatment of hypothermia and other emergency situations.

I'm not sure about the Kosher rules in Judaism, but in Islam, any substance of medicinal value is permitted if necessary for the health of the patient.

This rule is conscience based I guess, for all of you thinking of that Simpsons episode where the blind guy was smoking weed for "medicinal purposes".

Antiobiotics (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23000694)

Antiobiotics Antiobiotics Antiobiotics Antiobiotics Antiobiotics Antiobiotics Antiobiotics Antiobiotics Antiobiotics Antiobiotics Antiobiotics Antiobiotics Antiobiotics Antiobiotics Antiobiotics Antiobiotics Antiobiotics Antiobiotics Antiobiotics Antiobiotics Antiobiotics Antiobiotics Antiobiotics

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Is this a joke? (3, Funny)

ben0207 (845105) | about 6 years ago | (#23000700)

Were they hoping people wouldn't associate a wonderdrug from a reptile (this shite) with the common phrase "snake oil" (a wonderdrug from a reptile)

superbugs (5, Insightful)

biased_estimator (1222498) | about 6 years ago | (#23000714)

This new class of drug could also crack so-called 'superbugs' that are resistant to conventional medication.
Sure, until we use these new antibiotics so recklessly (or simply so often) that we select for resistant strains.

Re:superbugs (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23000774)

But then we can harvest the proteins from the white blood cells of a different, and even more awesome animal. Everyone wins.

Re:superbugs (3, Interesting)

snl2587 (1177409) | about 6 years ago | (#23000884)

Sure, until we use these new antibiotics so recklessly (or simply so often) that we select for resistant strains.

The fact that people will misuse drugs does not mean we shouldn't make them available. If you read TFA you'll see:

Their previous research also suggests that blood proteins may help fight HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

I'd say the possible faster introduction of superbugs may be worth the risk if we can at least try.

Re:superbugs (5, Insightful)

speaktruth (1082461) | about 6 years ago | (#23001332)

"The fact that people will misuse drugs does not mean we shouldn't make them available."

Someone should probably tell that to the DEA before we waste any more resources on this whole war on drugs thing.

Re:superbugs (1)

snl2587 (1177409) | about 6 years ago | (#23001606)

I meant medical drugs...though I do agree with the sentiment and making certain drugs illegal causes more net harm than net good. Different discussion entirely, though.

Re:superbugs (1)

gripen40k (957933) | about 6 years ago | (#23001430)

I totally agree with you here, but there is one thing to think about; what happens if we make an even worse epidemic than HIV/AIDS? Sure we may stop the HIV strain from infecting us, but it may lead to other similar viruses that are totally resistant to the new drugs.

We should still try to cure HIV, and to introduce these new antibiotics, but we have to figure out a plan to stop the natural development of resistant strains of HIV.

Re:superbugs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23001754)

what happens if we make an even worse epidemic than HIV/AIDS?

That would be bad. Wait, is that a trick question?

On a more serious note, a virus becoming more resistant to a wide range of attacks is not free. The virus has only so many resources, and the more it expends on defense the less ability it has to spread and reproduce. Since the latter is obviously necessary, any individual strain of virus can have only so much defense. So the wider the array of attacks we have the better off we are.

Re:superbugs (4, Insightful)

0xABADC0DA (867955) | about 6 years ago | (#23001686)

What it boils down to is that this reasearch is going to end up killing alligators by making immune germs so that we can raise pigs and chickens under worse conditions. That's what we are talking about really.

Humans need newer antibiotics because we wasted them growing pigs and chickens, and reducing the puss in milk from overproducing cows. Also, even if this 'cures' HIV the benefit is not so much in saving lives but more in protecting a social order that allows it to spread.

This will certainly result in a sad reflection on our society, that we would contribute to the destruction of animals that have been around for hundreds of millions of years. So we can have our pork sandwich for lunch for $0.50 less. But hey since we're giving a collective 'fuck you' to the world anyway, why not?

Have you seen where these things live? (3, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | about 6 years ago | (#23000730)

Let alone they eat about anything which doesn't eat them first.

My only concern with this type of approach is how hamstrung will we get when the first protesters arrive? Can we replicate it or at least identify WHY it is so useful or different?

Re:Have you seen where these things live? (2)

Malevolent Tester (1201209) | about 6 years ago | (#23000924)

The first problem could provide a solution to the second - I'm sure people who are vehemently opposed to animal testing will be willing to volunteer their bodies, right?

Re:Have you seen where these things live? (3, Insightful)

DougWebb (178910) | about 6 years ago | (#23001514)

I'm sure people who are vehemently opposed to animal testing will be willing to volunteer their bodies, right?

Many would, but if you try to take them up on that, a whole other group of activists gets involved preventing that testing too.

So, you think "Ok, I just won't test my product then", and a third group of activists pounces on you. There's just no way to get ahead without paying everyone off to make them happy and quiet.

Re:Have you seen where these things live? (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 6 years ago | (#23001596)

Ignore the anti animal testers.
Especially since most of them are hypocrites.

Re:Have you seen where these things live? (1)

tonyreadsnews (1134939) | about 6 years ago | (#23001696)

Actually, you just need to stick all 3 groups in the same room at that point. Evolution will take over at that point and tell you which is best for the society, right???

Re:Have you seen where these things live? (4, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | about 6 years ago | (#23001022)

My only concern with this type of approach is how hamstrung will we get when the first protesters arrive?


Possibly somewhat, but not as much as if the protesters hadn't been there all along to make sure the species did not become extinct, or too rare to study.

You're probably too young to remember this, but alligator skin used to be quite stylish for handbags, shoes, wallets and the like. Wild populations can provide a sustainable source of goods like this so long as people don't take so many animals that the equilibrium breaks down and the population crashes. However, that's pretty much the inevitable course of events ever since society reached a sufficient technological level to respond to market opportunities with tools that make resource extraction orders of magnitude faster (and thus more profitable).

You, as an alligator hunter, may be smart enough to know you'll make more in the long run by sustainable harvesting, but if your competition is sufficiently inbred, this sounds like hifalutin nonsense to them. When the idiots are making more money than the smart people, the near-idiots emulate the idiots, and pretty soon the people acting intelligently are the only ones who aren't in on the bonanza. At that point the intelligent choice is to act stupidly, because you maximize your long term return by grabbing a share of the breeding stock before even that is liquidated.

Re:Have you seen where these things live? (1)

jtev (133871) | about 6 years ago | (#23001630)

Yeah, they couldn't possibly use FARMED alligator for this. No, just not possible. I don't think they've been domesticated long enough for the wild and "tame" strains to be that different. Oh, and Aligator leather is making a comeback, because of the farming.

Re:Have you seen where these things live? (2, Funny)

value_added (719364) | about 6 years ago | (#23001072)

My only concern with this type of approach is how hamstrung will we get when the first protesters arrive?

No worries. The biochemists studying this work at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and McNeese State University in Lake Charles, both in Louisiana. If you ever been to that part of the south, you'd know they'd rather eat the things only slightly more than they'd prefer shoot them, or use them to make handbags, belts and shoes.

Can we replicate it or at least identify WHY it is so useful or different?

If we can't, we'll have to turn to someone like Emeril Lagasse [wikipedia.org] for an alternative, more spicy, use. At any rate, the article is fairly interesting. Maybe they should adopt a slogan like "Alligators: Good, and Good for You." to get things going.

Re:Have you seen where these things live? (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | about 6 years ago | (#23001490)

We don't have to kill'em to use their blood. Hell, we've been studying horseshoe crabs' [wikipedia.org] unique immune systems in the same fashion. Note that useful samples of blood can be (repeatedly) extracted from the crabs without killing them. From the Wikipedia article:

"A single horseshoe crab can be worth $2,500 over its lifetime for periodic blood extractions..."

If alligator blood is important enough then we could occasionally draw from specimens which are already in captivity.

And for those of you who are making all of the croc meat jokes, keep in mind that croc meat is tough, stringy, and lacking in flavor compared to other meats.

Hospital patient's new favorite catch phrase (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23000736)

"Bite me."

Hillbilly Research (4, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 6 years ago | (#23000750)

It's amazing what can be discovered when you're looking for something else. I have an excerpt from the researcher's journal that I found on their site:

"Johnson was busy cutting lines and snorting dolphin brains while playing Brain Age to see if that was increasing his mental capabilities. Heinz was freebasing hawk feathers and taking eye exams to check for increased vision. Me? I was mainlining alligator blood and hoping for some sort of super jaw strength and scales. As we were taking Williams to the hospital (he had grafted a mongoose tail to his ass and entered a pit of asps and vipers) I noticed that all my ulcers and sinuses had cleared up within the hour ..."

Re:Hillbilly Research (1)

elrous0 (869638) | about 6 years ago | (#23000912)

Hey if a radioactive spider can turn a geeky kid into Spiderman, anything is possible.

What's the cost? (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 6 years ago | (#23000754)

The ability to heal quickly and fight off almost any infection would be a huge adaptation for any animal even without the territory battles. The fact that alligators are one of the few (only?) animals to evolve this adaptation indicates that it comes with a hefty price.

The question is, can we leverage this adaptation for ourselves without incurring the price? If the price is energy expended to produce the ultra efficient immune system, that's fine; but if the price is directly tied to the effects themselves this may prove worthless.

Re:What's the cost? (5, Funny)

Ai Olor-Wile (997427) | about 6 years ago | (#23000828)

The cost is "being a goddamn ten foot long reptile." The cure is "put it in pills." Sheesh, some transhumanists...

Re:What's the cost? (3, Insightful)

eln (21727) | about 6 years ago | (#23000900)

It could also be that the changes required to end up with an immune system like that are incredibly complex and may involve steps along the way that are not evolutionarily advantageous in most species, so the necessary sequence of evolutionary steps was not completed in most species. Or, it could just be that by random chance the mutations simply did not occur except in a few species, and did not stick for whatever reason in most cases where it did occur.

To say that there must be some tradeoff implies that evolution's purpose is to produce the most perfectly adapted organism possible, when in fact evolution has no purpose at all. It is a series of mutations that tend to produce organisms that are well adapted, but certainly not perfectly adapted in most cases, to the particular environment they find themselves in.

Or, it might turn out that the tradeoff is that you end up growing tough scaly skin that people like to make into boots and handbags, in which case I look forward to giving my wife a Gucci Human-skin bag in the near future.

Re:What's the cost? (1)

maxume (22995) | about 6 years ago | (#23001238)

It absolutely is a trade off in the metabolic sense, given enough time, traits that are energy expensive and do not confer some advantage will at least become a minority in a population.

Re:What's the cost? (1)

wattrlz (1162603) | about 6 years ago | (#23001014)

Perhaps mammals haven't evolved this, not because of it's cost, but because our immune systems function very differently than that of a crocodilian ? To develop this particular adaptation we'd need to completely re-evaluate our immune strategy. There just isn't enough evolutionary pressure to make us abandon a system that works as well as our current one does. Maybe we should research other animals that live in cesspools, eat carrion and offal; and fight daily territory battles... How do rat immune systems work?

Re:What's the cost? (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 6 years ago | (#23001228)

All very true, evolution does tend to push towards local maximums, not absolute maximums. However, by speculating that alligators have evolved this immune system because of their fierce terrotorial battles, the researchers imply that other reptiles do not share this adaptation, even though their immune systems are presumably quite similar.

Can you think of any other adaptation that is as advantagous as this one (immunity from virtually all kinds of disease and infection) that isn't shared by a wide variety of species? The fact that alligators haven't diversified out into other ecological niches seems (to me) to indicate that there is a heavy cost associated.

Re:What's the cost? (1)

wattrlz (1162603) | about 6 years ago | (#23001694)

TFA also mentioned crocodiles and from what I know about Caymans I think it's pretty likely they have similar adaptations as well. Komodo Dragons and other monitors also have a similar adaptation.

Some other unique and inexplicably rare adaptations include the pinniped's ability to sleep a hemisphere at a time, the termite's ability to eat wood, and parthenogenesis.

Cost of Complexity is a Myth (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 6 years ago | (#23001138)

There was very recent research that was quite extensive that showed this cost of complexity in evolution is a myth [sciencedaily.com]. I don't know why you think it has to come at a cost, it just so happens that alligators needed it to live in their conditions and with their temperaments.

You can sit here all day and question why we don't have some of the obvious advantage traits that any other animal has and the answer is simple: we didn't require it. If humans needed it and didn't have it, we wouldn't be around.

Explain your logic on why this must come at a price? The random evolution happened in alligators and may be present in other animals (or extinct relatives).

Re:Cost of Complexity is a Myth (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 6 years ago | (#23001368)

I'm not saying that the complexity of the immune system implies a cost to the organism, I am saying that this adaptation is so ridiculously advantagious that there must be some cost or it would be much more common (Of course, this conjecture falls apart if the adaptation is more common than the article implies).

Don't believe that this adaptation is that advantagious? Infections deseases are responsible for 20% of human deaths, second only to heart disease; and that is even with modern antibiotics.

Re:Cost of Complexity is a Myth (3, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 6 years ago | (#23001458)

I'm not saying that the complexity of the immune system implies a cost to the organism, I am saying that this adaptation is so ridiculously advantagious that there must be some cost or it would be much more common (Of course, this conjecture falls apart if the adaptation is more common than the article implies).
And yet, here you and I are with opposable thumbs and an increased Broca's Region of our brain ... why don't other animals have these ridiculously obvious advantages? Evolution is random and only reacts to the environment of the organism.

Don't believe that this adaptation is that advantagious? Infections deseases are responsible for 20% of human deaths, second only to heart disease; and that is even with modern antibiotics.
A death rate of 20% is inflated because we know how to circumvent so many other forms of death. I'm sure prior to civilized humans, we were killed by many many other things. Not to mention that low death rates can lead to famine and ecosystem failure. How do you know we're not dooming the earth by ensuring everyone lives to age 70 and has 2.4 children? The human population is not kept in check the same way it used to be because of modern antibiotics.

Re:Cost of Complexity is a Myth (1)

geckofiend (314803) | about 6 years ago | (#23001506)

The random evolution happened in alligators and may be present in other animals (or extinct relatives).

Evolution is not random. Mutation is but evolution isn't.

Don't fall into the ID trap

On advantageous traits (2, Interesting)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | about 6 years ago | (#23001520)

What's funny is that the whole concept of advantageous traits is a shifting thing. I listened to some NPR reporters asking why native trees from New York had big thorns on them. It turns out they're very similar to thorns on some trees in Africa, which evolved to minimize predation by elephants. Well, it turns out these trees from New York evolved these spikes to fend of mammoths, though it seems like a silly waste of energy now.

The trees that didn't have the spikes were all eaten. The alligators who couldn't heal quickly all died. That's evolution for ya.

There may be no cost (2, Insightful)

Devin Jeanpierre (1243322) | about 6 years ago | (#23001140)

The fact that alligators are one of the few (only?) animals to evolve this adaptation indicates that it comes with a hefty price.
There is no such indication. There may be a cost, but that's not indicated by the evidence. It may just be that most/all other animals didn't have the specific circumstances that would start a chain of mutations leading to this. It could simply be that alligators are far more likely to get injured, and therefore when this mutation occurred, it much more likely to survive than it would be in animals without such a high rate of (possibly survivable-- if you're trapped, you're trapped, no matter if you could recover from the injuries or not) injury. It just might be that simply needing a better immune system isn't enough to make this evolve, or it might be that this effect is from a combination of genes that individually mainly benefit healing. I am not an evolutionary biologist, or a biologist at all, but I think that it is premature to conclude that alligators are of the few to have this due to some cost. Especially important is that, since we only just discovered it in alligators, it may exist more widely than just a "few" animals.

Re:What's the cost? (3, Funny)

trybywrench (584843) | about 6 years ago | (#23001148)

The fact that alligators are one of the few (only?) animals to evolve this adaptation indicates that it comes with a hefty price. The question is, can we leverage this adaptation for ourselves without incurring the price?
yeah i don't even want to think about the copay

Re:What's the cost? (1)

slackoon (997078) | about 6 years ago | (#23001678)

Just a thought, If aligators and crocs are some of the most succesful animals on the planet and some of the oldest 9which is scientific fact) then isn't the "price" worth it. Cocroaches will one day rule the world!

evolution (1)

timelorde (7880) | about 6 years ago | (#23000782)

Scientists believe that this is an evolutionary adaptation to promote quick wound healing, as alligators are often injured during fierce territorial battles."

By extension, this would mean that my brother and I are immune to just about everything.

zzz (1)

apodyopsis (1048476) | about 6 years ago | (#23000830)

Nice to see another animal joining the tiger, rhino and elephant in helping mankind survive and prosper.

Still, I'm sure as a sensible and mature species we can do the right thing and coexist happy with our newfound antibiotic donors. It would be ironic if after they finally disappear from the wild (and they are one of those species that has been around for many many millions of years) they survive only in medicine farms.

sigh.

Re:zzz (4, Interesting)

berashith (222128) | about 6 years ago | (#23001240)

check out the horseshoe crab. They were going to be completely destroyed until the medical industry offered to pay more for keeping them alive than the fishermen were paying to use them as bait. The species will actually continue only because of their medical uses. Maybe this will help.

There are already decent protections for legal hunting gator, and this may increase the pressure against poaching.

Why evolution? (1, Informative)

AutopsyReport (856852) | about 6 years ago | (#23000848)

Scientists believe that this is an evolutionary adaptation to promote quick wound healing, as alligators are often injured during fierce territorial battles.

Or conversely, alligators as a species have always had these antibiotics. Why is it that every interesting or perplexing feature about a species must be somehow attributed to, or be a product of, evolution?

I'm as much a believer in evolution as the next, but I've grown a bit tired of every amazing discovery being associated with evolution.

Re:Why evolution? (1)

BigDumbAnimal (532071) | about 6 years ago | (#23001070)

Or conversely, alligators as a species have always had these antibiotics.
This is what evolution says. Anything that is came about over a long period of time. There is no 'always' with evolution.

At least the FA got this part right:

Scientists believe that this is an evolutionary adaptation...

Re:Why evolution? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23001080)

Evolution is the atheist's "god." Don't understand how something works or was developed? Evolution did it!

Re:Why evolution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23001524)

[Arbitrary invisible man in the sky] is the simpleton's "god". Don't understand how something works or was developed? [Arbitrary invisible man in the sky] did it!

Re:Why evolution? (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 6 years ago | (#23001084)

Ummm, What? If you are "as much a believer in evolution as the next" how do you propose that "alligators as a species have always had these antibiotics". If you beleive in evolution, then alligators as a species haven't always existed. In fact, according to evolution they probably have a common ancestor with nearly every other animal on the planet.

The article isn't saying that they just recently evolved this immune system if that's what you are trying to say. Mearly that we have discovered this new adaptation and will probably try to take advantage of the discoveries that evolution has made.

Re:Why evolution? (1)

porcupine8 (816071) | about 6 years ago | (#23001122)

alligators as a species have always had these antibiotics

Okay, then their most recent ancestors evolved it.

Either you think that all species got their present form due to natural selection, or you don't. You can't say "Weeeelllll, sure, some did, but this particular species probably just sprang up fully-formed out of the ether."

Well, okay, you can say that, but don't expect scientists to agree.

Re:Why evolution? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23001124)

I'm as much a believer in evolution as the next, but I've grown a bit tired of every amazing discovery being associated with evolution.
I believe the real root of your concern, which I share to some degree, is that oftentimes people will be quick to graft on an explanation based on evolutionary theory to any peculiar feature of an organism, without any testing. Thus, one could conceivably concoct several different interpretations based on evolutionary theory of the origins of any feature of an organism.

However, and this is the key point, just because one can come up with an arbitrary interpretation, does not mean that an explanation grounded in evolutionary theory is incorrect. A more disciplined and principled approach would be needed, that's all.

Since every organism is subject to selection pressures, evolutionary theory indicates that any structural or functional feature of an organism arose as a result of conferring some benefit to the organism across many generations.

Or to put it another way, if a perplexing feature of an organism is not attributed to evolution, to what can it be attributed? Evolution is precisely a way to account for such features.

Be wary of doubting this ... that way lies creationism!

Re:Why evolution? (2, Funny)

hoggoth (414195) | about 6 years ago | (#23001132)

> Or conversely, alligators as a species have always had these antibiotics. Why is it that every interesting or perplexing feature about a species must be somehow attributed to, or be a product of, evolution?
> I'm as much a believer in evolution as the next, but I've grown a bit tired of every amazing discovery being associated with evolution.

Because every interesting, perlexing, or boring feature of a species is of course a product of evolution.
The first single cell didn't have a powerful immune system. Alligators do. Somewhere along the way the branch of life leading to alligators, they evolved a powerful immune system. Why does that characterisation bother you?

Perhaps I misunderstood you, and you were reacting to the common tendency for the news to report some simplistic off-the-cuff guess as to what environmental pressure led to a certain feature evolving. In this case, territorial fights=super immunity. I heard a story on the news this morning about how less sleep leads to increased feelings of hunger and the reporter added, 'this makes sense in evolutionary terms because clubbing rhinos for food all day takes a lot of energy and increased hunger will help replenish that energy' huh? wtf?

Re:Why evolution? (1)

thanatos_x (1086171) | about 6 years ago | (#23001182)

Probably because everything that exists today was influenced by everything that took place in the past. Some traits are probably just random mutations that neither increased nor decreased the chances for survival - human handedness, hair/eye color, ear shape... these have few impacts on survival save some extreme conditions. Until science can come up with a good reason why most of us are right handed, I doubt one could really call it evolution, rather random mutation.

An advanced immune system or rapid regeneration is certainly under the category of "increases chances for survival" This would be consistent with an evolved trait.

Since we've found few creatures with such traits, despite it being obviously beneficial, it stands to reason that there is a probable cause for such an evolution, different from other animals. Fast wound healing/superior immune systems would be a fair evolution of something that got injured frequently and was often immersed in unclean water.

Re:Why evolution? (1)

NIckGorton (974753) | about 6 years ago | (#23001468)

Probably because everything that exists today was influenced by everything that took place in the past. Some traits are probably just random mutations that neither increased nor decreased the chances for survival - human handedness, hair/eye color, ear shape... these have few impacts on survival save some extreme conditions. Until science can come up with a good reason why most of us are right handed, I doubt one could really call it evolution, rather random mutation.
No, its still evolution. Even if we don't know the utility of something, that is no reason to believe that its not the product of evolution. For example, quite recently we discovered the reason why we have an appendix (other than to make my life as an ER doctor a living hell.) However 5 years ago, if you asked any evolutionary biologist they would have still said that the appendix is a product of evolution. It would be like suggesting that gravity wasn't really there until Newton described it.

Of course that just made my tee shirt with the picture of a colon with an appendix saying: "Intelligent design? OK, show me the elegant design of my appendix" just that much more cool.

Re:Why evolution? (0, Flamebait)

NIckGorton (974753) | about 6 years ago | (#23001230)

Or conversely, alligators as a species have always had these antibiotics. Why is it that every interesting or perplexing feature about a species must be somehow attributed to, or be a product of, evolution?
Um, because every perplexing feature of a species is a product of evolution. Unless you feel that "alligators as a species [sic]" somehow were magically created with the wave of some supernatural creator's wand, then there is no way that they can have 'always been there' except as a product of the evolution of the genus.

I'm as much a believer in evolution as the next, but I've grown a bit tired of every amazing discovery being associated with evolution.
No you aren't. You are a creationist theo-tard who is trying to utilize feigned credibility as a real scientists to make his ignorant claims have some reasonableness.

Thanks for playing. And by the way, alligators are a genus, not a species.

Re:Why evolution? (1)

hey! (33014) | about 6 years ago | (#23001244)

I'm as much a believer in evolution as the next, but I've grown a bit tired of every amazing discovery being associated with evolution.


It's not so much a matter of belief but utility. This is how you use a scientific theory like evolution.

Evolution is such an important biological concept, that every well designed study which either relates to breeding populations of organisms or to traits which might promote the survival of individuals within such a population sets out to disprove natural selection. It's not that anybody seriously believes natural selection is wrong, it's just the null hypothesis.

This is a lot like Douglas Adams' idea of how you learn to fly: you throw yourself at the ground and miss. In biology, you set out doing your damnedest to disprove evolution, with the hope that you'll fail in an interesting way.

What is irksome to you, I believe, is the use of evolution as a doctrine rather than a theory. Evolution is a very useful theory; it's no more useful as a doctrine than any other doctrine.

Re:Why evolution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23001282)

Because it turns out everything alive can be attributed to, or is a product of, evolution (unless you believe in strict creationism, then you can say whatever you want). I don't understand what your problem is with the statement. If alligators as a species have always had these antibiotics, then they came from an ancestral species, which evolved them for some other purpose - evolution strikes again.

Re:Why evolution? (1)

AutopsyReport (856852) | about 6 years ago | (#23001718)

Some clarification: I wasn't trying to suggest that the characteristics of an alligator are not a result of evolution, because of course, as some have pointed out, everything is rooted in evolution.

What I was trying to say is that it's possible that the alligator had always had these antibiotics since it's initial state of being, and that it didn't obtain these antibiotics somewhere along its course of life.

To repeat: everything about alligators is a product of evolution, but it's entirely plausible they've had the antibiotics since their "beginning". The article suggests that maybe the antibiotics were obtained as a result of their environment (fighting, etc.), but I'm suggesting it's possible they've always had them.

Hence my criticism of linking everything directly to evolution (evolution in the sense that it must have evolved a characteristic after its first "beginning"). I don't know if this confuses the matter worse, but I hope not.

I guess what's old is new again. (3, Informative)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | about 6 years ago | (#23000864)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4155522.stm [bbc.co.uk]

About three and a half years ago he tested alligator blood and pinpointed why these animals were so resistant to infection. Alligators and crocodiles, like humans, have a natural defence system against invading bacteria, viruses and fungi, which involves a group of proteins called the complement system. When Dr Merchant exposed the alligator blood to pathogens such as HIV, West Nile Virus and E Coli, it started to kill them. "It turns out that this complement system is much more effective than ours.
and that was already 3 years old.

Re:I guess what's old is new again. (1)

maxch (1264500) | about 6 years ago | (#23001082)

Maybe its some kind of ritual, like before slaughtering a virgin and drinking it's blood, they need to announce to the media that alligators can cure us all... I guess we'll need to wait another three years to find out.

oh yeah, it's great for you (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23000872)

just not so good for your health to try to collect it

Strong immune system vs evolution rate (5, Interesting)

GargamelSpaceman (992546) | about 6 years ago | (#23000930)

Gators/Crocs are famous for having not changed much since the time of the dinosaurs.


I wonder if since they have a very strong immune system that kills viruses etc so well, if they have not denied themselves the opportunity to incorporate useful viral dna and bacterial plasmids into their own dna. It would be interesting to see if they have a different amount of viral origin genes in their genomes than other animals.

Skiffy (1)

grassy_knoll (412409) | about 6 years ago | (#23000994)

Ok, who thinks the Biochemists from McNeese State University have been watching a wee bit too many Sci Fi Pictures original films?

"next tonight... MANGATOR!"

[badum-ching]

evolution goes wrong (1)

someone1234 (830754) | about 6 years ago | (#23001030)

How long will these alligators survive, now that their blood became worthy?

Re:evolution goes wrong (1)

maxume (22995) | about 6 years ago | (#23001286)

Forever?

If you doubt me, I would start by pointing to those other highly successful friends of man, cows and dogs.

Re:evolution goes wrong (1)

gnuman99 (746007) | about 6 years ago | (#23001584)

HAHAHA!!

Oh man, you've made my day. I thought I saw dumb replies but this got to top the rest of the ignorance. What do you think they researchers will do?? Grab them all and drain them of blood??

Here's what will happen,

  1. they go to a zoo or similar controller place and get some blood samples. Or grab a few specimens for their own little "zoo"
  2. work on the blood samples for weeks/months
  3. go back to step #1 for as long as necessary for #4 to be available
  4. get some result

This is not "wearing alligator shoes prevents cancer" or other claim. What do you think people will do? Inject themselves with alligator blood? Go ahead! I dare you!!

strange brew that's also good for you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23001046)

That would be Kombucha, which is much easier to obtain/use than 'gator blood.

In LOUISIANA... (2, Funny)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | about 6 years ago | (#23001154)

Just to point out, McNeese State University, where the study was done, is in Lake Charles, LA. That's in South Louisiana. Which is mostly swampland, or close to it.

Those kids KNOWS gators. Which are tasty, by the way, and becoming a borderline nuisance down in South LA because the @#$%ing damnyankee tourists keep feedin' em and dey come up to de pirogue lookin' for de crap-touristee food and you gotta whack 'em wit' de paddle and dey bite de paddle and you got...woah, sorry.

All that goes to say....Gator sausage is GOOD eatin'.

Homo Sapiens v2.0 (1)

-Tango21- (703195) | about 6 years ago | (#23001180)

Years ago, it was discovered that their "blood is also remarkable in its affinity for oxygen, carrying more in oxygen rich areas, and releasing it more quickly in oxygen deprived areas." Source: http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/cnhc/cbd-faq-q5.htm [ufl.edu]

If people could get their blood infused (at least temporarily) with alligator blood it may be also used during surgery on humans to decrease the chance of infection and lessen the need for blood flow. Then, if the infusion could be permanent...

The Cajun Cure (2, Funny)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | about 6 years ago | (#23001200)

Old family recipe:
  • 2 oz. fresh gator blood
  • 2 oz. rum 151 proof or stronger
  • splash hot pepper sauce
  • serve straight up with or without raw egg
Cures what ails you.

Re:The Cajun Cure (1)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | about 6 years ago | (#23001234)

"Splash hot pepper sauce."

Pfff. Lightweight.

And let me NARROW that down for you. Tobasco, Krystal, or Louisiana Hot Sauce. Or choose your local south LA brand or whatever you made up yourself.

their system may be too different (1, Interesting)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 6 years ago | (#23001210)

alligators also:

1. eat putrid rotten food
2. live in oxygen deprived standing water
3. have been doing so for hundreds of millions of years

therefore, their immune systems should be absolutely spectacular

however, some of their adaptations might be more systematic. that is, rather than fight off infecting agents, they may simply let infectious agents traverse their organ systems with impunity, without any resistance, and also without offering any safe harbor. in other words, it is one thing to have a fanatical vigilant guard at your front door who lets no one in, it is another thing to let anyone in your house who wanders by, simply offering nothing inside worth stealing

i would suspect therefore that a lot of the alligator's adaptations to remaining infection free are so very fundamentally different from our body's approach to infection as to be inapplicable to how our bodies approach the subject. they're way of life is so different and ancient as compared to ours, some of their adaptations may be inapplicable to our own bodies

Endangered species (1)

s_p_oneil (795792) | about 6 years ago | (#23001354)

Something tells me we'll have to put them back on the endangered species list. We just recently took them off of it.

Re:Endangered species (1)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | about 6 years ago | (#23001698)

Ummmm....no. You may be thinking crocodiles. Alligators are actually becoming a nuisance, and you can legally hunt them with a tag (something like one a year, depending). They are ALL OVER THE FREAKING PLACE sometimes, because of lack of - or limitation of predators and the tourists keep feedin' em.

Komodo dragons too (2, Informative)

cats-paw (34890) | about 6 years ago | (#23001452)

Turns out Komodo dragons have a fairly lethal cocktail of bacteria in their saliva.
Kills prey that manages to escape their immediate grasp, then they use smell to track it down.
Naturally they need protection from this goo too.

Couldn't find a better link than this:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12238371/ [nih.gov]

Helps your poker game too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#23001522)

Hanging around. Hanging around. Can't get rid of him. Kid's got aligator blood.

Reminds me of a story... (1)

sponglish (759074) | about 6 years ago | (#23001670)

From Alfred Hitchcock's Book of Monster (IIRC)

A not insane scientist doing research on alligators or crocs discovers that they have a congenital heart condition (hole in the heart wall I think it was) that made them so sluggish. He fixes the gene, the hole is healed, and shortly afterward the story ends with humanity living underground in fear of winged fire-breathing dragons.

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