Using Devil’s Milk to Kill Superbugs

Using Devil’s Milk to Kill Superbugs

A huge milestone in medicine was the discovery
of antibiotics in the early 1900s, arming doctors against bacterial infections like
never before. But the thing about bacteria is they reproduce
really quickly, which means more genetic mutations, and the chance of developing resistance to
our drugs. In fact, MRSA is a strain of bacteria that
runs rampant in hospitals nowadays because of its resistance to lots of antibiotics. So scientists are turning to unusual places
to find new compounds to fight off these drug-resistant “superbugs.” Including … Tasmanian devil milk. In a paper published this month, researchers
at the University of Sydney reported that this marsupial’s milk is full of antimicrobial
compounds called cathelicidins. These compounds have been found in mammals
and birds, and they basically work by poking holes in the cell membrane of a bacterium
or fungus, which kills them. So far, we know that humans have one cathelicidin
protein, but Tasmanian devils have six of them, which these scientists named Saha-CATH1
through 6. And they’re really important in developing
the immune system of newborn tasmanian devil joeys, which initially don’t have any protection
from all the microbes in their mom’s pouch. So the researchers synthesized those six cathelicidins
and pitted them against 25 strains of bacteria and 6 strains of fungi. Three of the compounds didn’t show any antimicrobial
properties, so they might be involved in regulating other parts of the Tasmanian devil immune
system. But Saha-CATH3, 5, and 6 did. Saha-CATH3 was specifically out to kill one
strain of fungus. On the other hand, Saha-CATH6 killed several
strains of Streptococcus bacteria and a strain of antibiotic-resistant bacteria called VREF. And Saha-CATH5 seems to be the most promising
compound when it comes to potential drug development, since it wiped out just over half of the bacteria
and fungi that were tested, including the superbugs VREF and MRSA. So there’s a lot we can learn from other
animals when it comes to human medicine, especially in our never-ending battle against bacteria. —– But not all scientists make discoveries by
milking ferocious mammals. Another unexpected find this month happened
at a chemistry lab bench in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It’s been getting a lot of press, because
people hope this discovery could help control carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere,
by turning the gas into a liquid fuel: ethanol. You’ve probably heard time and again that
carbon dioxide is made from burning fossil fuels, and it’s one of the heat-trapping
greenhouse gases that has a huge effect on global climate. These researchers were working a nanotechnology-based
catalyst to try and convert CO2 into a different hydrocarbon, like methane gas. They used carbon and nitrogen atoms to make
a structure full of pointy nanospikes, each about 50 nanometers tall. Then they took copper nanoparticles, which
are really tiny and made of just hundreds of atoms, and sprinkled them on the spikes. Copper is highly conductive, so it acts as
a great catalyst to help shuffle around electrons and speed up certain chemical reactions. When a current of electricity is run through
this nanostructure, the copper nanoparticles help concentrate it at the tip of the carbon
nanospikes, kind of like teeny tiny lightning rods. So when the scientists dissolved carbon dioxide
in water and used this nanotechnology, all those concentrated electrons, plus the shape
of those spikes, helped catalyze a reduction reaction. Basically, this means the carbon dioxide molecules
lose oxygen atoms and gain hydrogen atoms, to form chemicals like carbon monoxide. Then, the carbon monoxide molecules can bind
together, to make two-carbon structures, which get reduced again to form ethanol. The scientists described it as a sort of reverse
chemical combustion reaction, since they started with a waste product and ended up with fuel. Other researchers have made methane gas, from
CO2 before, which is also used as fuel. But it’s harder to make a liquid fuel like
ethanol, without getting a bunch of other byproducts. Thanks to this nanostructure though, these
chemists had a pretty high yield: about 63% of the electrons from the current, and about
84% of the carbon dioxide molecules were turned into new ethanol molecules. There seems to be a lot of potential for this
technology on a bigger, industrial scale, especially because it uses pretty common materials:
carbon, nitrogen, and copper. But there’s still a ton of research that
needs to be done before that can happen, since it’s not that energy-efficient right now. In other words, they need to put a relatively
high amount of energy into the reaction to make it work. And even then, this process won’t necessarily
reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, because if we burn the ethanol,
we’ll just be converting it back into CO2. Instead, it might help level off rising carbon
dioxide levels, we don’t have to keep making and burning as much fuel from other sources. So it’s probably not a miraculous solution
to climate change, just like Tasmanian devil milk proteins won’t help us kill all deadly
bacteria. But scientific research is all about taking
little steps towards bigger breakthroughs, which includes these unexpected discoveries. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow
News, brought to you by this month’s Patreon President of Space Mitch A. Nelson! Thanks Mitch! Right now, our Patreon patrons are also helping
us launch a new channel in 2017. We asked what subject we should focus on in
the new channel, and our patrons have decided. The new SciShow channel will be SciShow Psychology. If you want to help make SciShow Psychology,
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100 thoughts on “Using Devil’s Milk to Kill Superbugs

  1. Was this antibiotics breakthrough discovered during the breakneck research attempts currently going on to save tazzy devils from extinction? (God damn contagious face cancer, please don't take tasmanian devils away from us. :C )

  2. Wait. We can turn carbon pollution into beer?
    Has anyone told the Germans about this cause if not, I'm ready to invest in a new start up.

  3. That CO2 to ethanol technology could be revolutionary. Well, not really. It has a lot of potential, because it could potentially keep recycling the greenhouse gasses and make it useful.

  4. What about finding a way to help Tasmanian Devils? They have a horrible disease that covers them in tumors and eventually kills them. Someone should also be looking for a cure for them, before we lose them all.

  5. The second news is huge! If it succeeds, we could use renewable sources of energy to make an eternal cycle of ethanol and CO2, which has the advantages of portability of a gas fuel without many disadvantages. The whole energy efficience is not that important, if you can sustain it with enough, say solar panels.

  6. Transforming CO2 to Methane has got to be one of the worst routes to take.
    Methane is a far worse greenhouse gas compared to CO2

  7. Methane is more potent than C02 for climate change, and CO is deadly. There had better be excellent containment procedures before the CO2 to Ethanol process is put into wide use.

  8. Think of it as energy storage. Use summer solar, and high wind days to turn excess electricity and carbon dioxide into ethanol, which stores easily at room temperature and pressure until needed in winter. The other contenders (hydrogen and methane) aren't nearly as friendly.

  9. Burn ethanol ==> capture CO2 waste in addition to atmospheric CO2==> make more ethanol. Could this work at all in practice?

  10. "You have MRSA, take this."

    "What's it made of?"

    "DEVILS' MILK**"*


  11. How much energy was needed to produce the reaction along with the nanoparticles and spikes. Seems like without a source of energy to be used, the production and reaction would be producing more co2.

  12. Yeah but Tasmanian Devils also have a form of cancer that is transmissible through biting (as in from the same mouth that once suckled milk). So maybe we should slow our roll on that.

  13. Why say "Vee-are-ee-eff" and "mer-sa" in the same sentence, but not "vee-ref" or "Em-are-es-ay"?

    Why does MRSA get it's own word, but VREF doesnt? What actually dictates that?

  14. Somehow I don't believe you just forgot to mention energy balance of turning CO2 into Ethanol. Did you deliberately leave it out to make the news more appealing?
    To say it short: it will take huge amounts of energy, much more that can be gained from burning Ethanol later. That energy has to come from somewhere, most likely from burning fossil fuels.
    Any mass scale production like this will actually increase CO2 unless we find and develop better sources of energy (like nuclear), but once we have those better sources of energy, we won't worry about CO2 anymore.

  15. Lol I really wonder if these people ever just tried basic white vinegar ..o well I guess milking a Tasmanian devil is just so MUCH easier than going to the store and picking up a 2 dollar bottle of something like vinegar!..guess scientist just really like to figure out how to milk exotic animals and waste time and money while doing it. ^_^'

  16. If you stop using fossil fuels, you will not solve climate change, will you please do some research, the climate change research done on this show is so appalling that it literally just looks like left wing propaganda instead of facts.

  17. I have MRSA and for anyone suffering from it, use Turmeric. Last time I got a infection I ate about a tablespoon of turmeric a day, and I made turmeric paste and applied it directly on the boil. After about 4 days of doing this the boil was gone.

  18. Cathelicidins are not really that rare, and we have known about anti-microbial proteins for many years now. The problem is that they're super expensive to make

  19. is there a way that if a Tasmanian Devil has that bad looking face cancer in it, could the cancer be contagious from Tazzy Devil – to – person via the milk?

  20. Isn't Ethanol the same alcohol we drink? Why not use this to produce a new line of alcoholic beverages called "Reclaimed liquor" that way we won't be burning it and converting it back into CO2, we'll be drinking it and converting it into good times.

  21. How does carbon dioxide loose an oxygen, gain a hydrogen and become carbon monoxide? would that not be Carbon hydroxide?

  22. So we can be less afraid of super-bacteria thanks to a species that is going extinct because of a communicable cancer…shit.

  23. I can't be the only one thinking that "Devil's milk" sounds like something an anti-sex Christian would call semen.

  24. Pulling carbon out of the atmosphere in this way only works if you are getting your energy from somewhere other than fossil fuels, WHICH WE MOSTLY AREN'T, and if we were then we would have already solved the problem of greenhouse gasses. We already have a means of getting the carbon out of the atmosphere that is way more effective than this technology ever will be – they are called TREES.

    Seriously did nobody seriously think this through? If you release more carbon generating the electricity you consume to pull carbon from the atmosphere than the carbon you actually remove, then this is a greenhouse gas GENERATOR. If you have a means of generating electricity on a large scale that doesn't release carbon, than use that and let the trees remove the existing carbon. If you are thinking 'well we'll just use non-fossil fuel based energy to power this ethanol production', then you are kidding yourself because you now need to use fossil fuel based energy to do whatever it was that you were doing with the renewable energy before you decided to use it for ethanol production.

    The ONLY thing that this is good for is providing a convenient liquid fuel for cars once we have large scale non-fossil fuel based electricity production. Of course we already have similar technology in hydrogen fuel cells.

  25. Really glad Scishow Psychology won out this one. The other two would be neat, but Psychology is so much more interesting. Can't wait to see the content that comes out for it!

  26. Okay, so why didn't you mention that the tazmanian devil is on the verge of extinction as its population has been reduced 95% in the past 20 years or so. You could have inc erased awareness while promoting the cure, I know you shake hands with smarter every day.

  27. Here's a news article about another product designed to fight superbugs in a different way:

  28. these substances found in all mammalian premilk fluids called (colostrum) are nothing new .this is why vegan lack understanding .Bovines colostrum is over 700 times more powerful at modulating the immune system

  29. ok, so you turn CO2 and H2O into CH3CH2OH using some nano.weirdness AND electric energy. my question: where do you get the electric energy from? possibly by burning fossil fuel or bio-ethanol??
    surely you know that energy doesnt just pop out of nothing. I mean the energy you have to use to create EtOH from CO2 and H2O is the same amount that gets released when burning the former. assuming 100 % efficiency.
    unless you have a super cheap and CO2 free way to produce your electric energy in the first hand I cannot see any use of this technology. If you have loads of hydro- or photoelectric energy available why not use it to replace CO2 emitting power-technologies in the first place?

    again, I CANNOT see any use of this technology. or do you have any information I dont have?

  30. Why isn't that famous idiot Elon Musk try designing an engine to run on ethanol that traps it's exhaust in a loop that then filters through this technology thus making our vehicles and homes run on the waste it takes to make the motor plus some. Then we'd still have an internal combustion option (I know the energy difference is less and it's not the same) and be able to replace all pre obd2 commuter vehicles?

    Answer to global warming here.

  31. Thank you!! Please keep enlightening us with these important informations… I really appreciate your work here 🙂

  32. I say we make a brewery that uses this tech n start selling vodka or mix drinks with the slogan " drink our way to a cooler tomorrow"

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