• Question: Is there some sort of animal or plant that most people find disgusting but it saves a lot of peoples lives?

    Asked by Chris to Jonathan, Kellie, Kevin, Melissa, Stephanie on 2 May 2016.
    • Photo: Kevin Baker

      Kevin Baker answered on 2 May 2016:

      Hm. Not that I can think of. However, I do not like it when people kill rhinos or elephants for their tusks to put it in “medicine”. This kind of medicine does not work and I find it disgusting that people still hurt these creatures for it.

    • Photo: Stephanie Moon

      Stephanie Moon answered on 2 May 2016:

      I think there are a couple things that many people would find disgusting, but save a lot of lives. For example, bacteria (E coli) that is normally found in the lower digestive tract of mammals is used sometimes to create medicinal proteins (insulin for example has been made this way). It’s a great way to make many proteins normally made in human or other animals’ bodies that are difficult to get otherwise, and are required for people with some diseases to survive. We use E coli all the time in the lab as a sort of factory to make lots of protein to study protein function. Even though it seems a bit weird, E coli has really helped us figure out a lot about how proteins and cells work, and have probably saved a lot of lives.

    • Photo: Jonathan Jackson

      Jonathan Jackson answered on 2 May 2016:

      I think many scientists are hard at work to use things found in nature to save people’s lives. In my field, many people do work with mice and rats, but that research has definitely helped us understand the human body and brain in such a way that lives have been saved. The same thing goes with the fruit fly, and the famous C. elegans (see more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caenorhabditis_elegans).

      So there you have it. Rats, flies, and worms have all contributed to neuroscience and medicine!

    • Photo: Melissa Wilson Sayres

      Melissa Wilson Sayres answered on 3 May 2016:

      I’d agree with what other people put here.

      It isn’t disgusting, but a lot of people are afraid of the Gila monster (that my lab is studying). Turns out, there is a peptide in the Gila monster saliva that has been synthesized and is now used in medications for Type-II diabetes. And, even though the medicine is so successful, people are still very afraid of these shy creatures and I’ve heard many stories of people killing them (even though they’re not deadly and are protected here in Arizona).

    • Photo: Kellie Jaremko

      Kellie Jaremko answered on 3 May 2016:

      Hi Chris,

      You’d be surprised where all of our medicines and research chemicals come from. There are quite a lot of animals that produce venom which is used in neurological conditions and chronic pain. Here is a great link about how venom from spiders, snakes, scorpions, and sea creatures have been used in medicine and research: http://www.medicaldaily.com/venom-medicine-how-spiders-scorpions-snakes-and-sea-creatures-can-heal-328736 These don’t all provide cures but they do help us study the diseases.

      One chronic pain medication that I have seen used (by a pump into the spinal cord) is ziconotide (Prialt), which is extracted from cone snails