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Flea Antifreeze

September 3, 2008

Scientists have successfully synthesized a potentially useful antifreeze protein from fleas.


Antifreeze from fleas. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

An antifreeze protein that helps Canadian snow fleas survive Arctic winters might someday extend the life of transplant organs, by allowing them to be stored safely at colder temperatures. But scientists couldn’t get enough of the protein from the fleas to find out. Now, University of Chicago biochemist Stephen Kent and his colleagues have cleared that hurdle. Kent says past research suggested that an artificial mirror image of the protein could be used to synthesize large quantities of the original.

STEPHEN KENT (University of Chicago):
And that turned out to be a correct prediction; we were able to get, in a matter of days, excellent crystals and determine the structure of the protein.

That innovation paves the way for research not only on the flea protein, but on many others that have been hard to synthesize. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.