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David V. Raju via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

This Frog’s Slime Fights the Flu

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David V. Raju via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

We’re not going to tell you to start kissing frogs (please don’t), but you might want to shake their hands: Scientists have found that the slime from one species can kill certain strains of the flu virus. The researchers published their findings in the journal Immunity.

The skin of amphibians like frogs and salamanders secretes a gooey mucus that has previously been shown to have antibacterial properties. Scientists were curious to see if the slime could also fight off viruses. They collected goo samples from an Indian fungoid frog (Hydrophylax bahuvistara), then extracted 32 peptides that looked promising. Next, they pitted those 32 peptides against the H1 flu virus, just to see what would happen. Expectations were low.

The results were astonishing: four out of 32 peptides clobbered the virus. “I was almost knocked off my chair,” senior author Joshy Jacob of Emory University said in a statement.

"In the beginning, I thought that when you do drug discovery, you have to go through thousands of drug candidates, even a million, before you get one or two hits. And here we did 32 peptides, and we had four hits."

Jacob and his colleagues named the most successful peptide urumin, after the Indian whip-sword known as the urumi. They brewed up a urumin compound and gave it to unvaccinated mice, then exposed those mice to the flu. Not only did the mice not get H1—they also didn’t get any side effects. The urumin only killed the virus, not anything else.

The scientists’ next steps will include trying to create a stable version of urumin that can be tested in people, and to look through other frog slime.

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This High-Tech Material Can Change Shape Like an Octopus
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Octopuses can do some pretty amazing things with their skin, like “see” light, resist the pull of their own sticky suction cups, and blend in seamlessly with their surroundings. That last part now has the U.S. Army interested, as Co.Design reports. The military branch’s research office has funded the development a new type of morphing material that works like an octopus’s dynamic skin.

The skin of an octopus is covered in small, muscular bumps called papillae that allow them to change textures in a fraction of a second. Using this mechanism, octopuses can mimic coral, rocks, and even other animals. The new government-funded research—conducted by scientists at Cornell University—produced a device that works using a similar principle.

“Technologies that use stretchable materials are increasingly important, yet we are unable to control how they stretch with much more sophistication than inflating balloons,” the scientists write in their study, recently published in the journal Science. “Nature, however, demonstrates remarkable control of stretchable surfaces.”

The membrane of the stretchy, silicone material lays flat most of the time, but when it’s inflated with air, it can morph to form almost any 3D shape. So far, the technology has been used to imitate rocks and plants.

You can see the synthetic skin transform from a two-dimensional pad to 3D models of objects in the video below:

It’s easy to see how this feature could be used in military gear. A soldier’s suit made from material like this could theoretically provide custom camouflage for any environment in an instant. Like a lot of military technology, it could also be useful in civilian life down the road. Co.Design writer Jesus Diaz brings up examples like buttons that appear on a car's dashboard only when you need them, or a mixing bowl that rises from the surface of the kitchen counter while you're cooking.

Even if we can mimic the camouflage capabilities of cephalopods, though, other impressive superpowers, like controlling thousands of powerful suction cups or squeezing through spaces the size of a cherry tomato, are still the sole domain of the octopus. For now.

[h/t Co.Design]

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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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