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Question Your World: Can the platypus help save lives?

For scientists, the scope of discovery can range anywhere from the totally straightforward to the totally weird. And if we're exploring the world of the weird, one animal seems to come up quite a bit, the duck-billed platypus. A recent study from the land down under has medical researchers asking a pretty big question - can the platypus help save lives? 

Let's talk about this oddball from the animal kingdom. Yes, this thing is totally weird, but a fascinating creature to scientists for exactly that reason, it's just that strange! For starters, there's the obvious bill, feet, tail and laying eggs stuff, but keep in mind it's also venomous! In 2016, scientists discovered that platypus venom has a hormone which could potentially help stabilize blood sugar, a very hopeful study for those with type 2 diabetes. We did a whole piece on that that you could check out to further see why medical scientists are so curious about this creature. But wait, there's more! Scientists aren't quite done with the world's weirdest animal just yet.

A recent study shed light on antibacterial properties found in platypus milk. It's no wonder that a bizarre creature like this has some bizarre biochemistry as well. Researchers studied some of this animal's milk samples and were able to characterize a new protein. Scientists were then able to replicate the protein in a lab and observed a never before seen protein fold which they aptly nicknamed "Shirley Temple" because it looked like the child star's iconic curls. 

There's further study needed but they hypothesized that the development of this antibacterial protein was an evolutionary adaption to help protect their young while nursing. Regardless, in a world where bacterial resistance to antibiotics is growing, this new discovery is big news. Further studies will continue, but a new variable that could potentially help save lives is always pretty exciting.

After making this big discovery, the researchers, of course, went on to have a g'day.

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