The Loh Down On Science

Snow Fleas

This odd little bug could someday save lives.

Transplant patient's life saved by fleas?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science

and on the new darling of medicine.

Canadian snow fleas.

Living at high elevations in the Great White North. The tiny creatures are actually more wingless fly than flea. Active in winter, they can be seen--in the BILLIONS--crawling across the snow.

That piqued the interest of scientists at the University of Chicago. For most living things, prolonged contact with snow has an awkward tendency to cause DEATH.

But the snow flea? He's all. . . Frosty the Snow Flea!

Researchers have found that they survive thanks to an incredibly complex protein, unique to snow fleas. It acts like antifreeze in their snowy little bodies.

The Chicago researchers deciphered the molecular structure of that protein very precisely. It allowed them to create several variations. The most promising? A variety that doesn't cause the adverse reactions in human tissue that is typical of most anti-freeze chemicals.

Practical use? Extending the storage life of donor organs and tissues, for human transplant.

Talk about A Flea in Her Ear! A Flea WAS her ear! Protein wise. Never mind.


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