48 Uses of Dragon’s Blood

SCIENCE

Mythology is rich with tales of dragons and the magical properties of their blood. Well, a new study indicates that the blood of the Komodo dragon is, in fact, loaded with proteins that could be used as antibiotics. Giant dragon versus superbug. (The Economist)

Why are antibiotics so important these days?

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

Komodo dragons are the largest lizards on Earth, reaching lengths of 3 meters (10 feet) and weighing up to 70 kilograms (150 pounds).
Photograph by Stefano Unterthiner, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

  • New research on properties of Komodo dragon blood was published in The Journal of Proteome Research. What is a proteome and why is it being researched?
    • A proteome is the entire set of proteins expressed by a genome. In fact, proteome is a portmanteau—a word made by combining parts of other words, like guesstimate or Brangelina. Proteome combines the words for protein and genome.
    • Proteomics is the study of proteins. Proteomics is a crucial part of genomics and genetics, because proteomes can differ from cell to cell and change over time. For instance, proteomics is helping scientists distinguish the different ways tissues develop and mutate, a key area of cancer and stem-cell research.

 

 

  • The Economist article says many animals “carry simple proteins known as antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) as general-purpose weapons against infection.” What makes Komodo dragon AMPs so unusual?
    • Before the study, scientists suspected the AMPs must be unusually strong or bacteria-resistant because Komodo dragons are not seriously infected by bites from other Komodo dragons. This is noteworthy because the mild venom and pathogenic bacteria in the bite of a Komodo dragon can be lethal for animals much larger than the lizard—a bite from a Komodo dragon can fell a water buffalo.
    • The study identified 48 potential AMPs that had never been seen before.

 

  • How did scientists test the resistance of the newly identified AMPs?
    • They exposed eight of the AMPs to Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus, two potentially lethal “superbug” bacteria.
      • P. aeruginosa is often associated with hospital-acquired infections such as sepsis syndromes and ventilator-associated pneumonia.
      • S. aureus is often associated with food poisoning, respiratory infections, and skin abscesses. One strain of S. aureus is particularly well-known: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. MRSA is resistant to some of the most potent antibiotics available, including the penicillins.

 

 

 

TEACHERS TOOLKIT

The Economist: The 48 uses of dragon’s blood

Nat Geo: Antibiotic Resistance Q&A study guide

European Bioinformatics Institute: What is proteomics?

(extra credit!) Journal of Proteome Research: Discovery of Novel Antimicrobial Peptides from Varanus komodoensis (Komodo Dragon) by Large-Scale Analyses and De-Novo-Assisted Sequencing Using Electron-Transfer Dissociation Mass Spectrometry

One response to “48 Uses of Dragon’s Blood

  1. Reblogged this on Brain Popcorn and commented:
    I love it when science and myth have one of those wacky intersections. Who said ‘you know all those stories about dragons’ blood? Maybe we should check that out? Let’s write a grant!’

    Like

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