Oceania is a unique continent due to its great content of truly peculiar endemic species. This can be seen in the presence of such extravagant animals as the platypus, the kookaburra or the pink fish with the hands. Yes, yes, a fish with his hands!

If compared to a bird-like mammal, a bird whose song resembles coldly a human laughter or a fish whose hand-shaped fins allow it to walk on the seabed, demon of Tasmania It may seem very normal. However, behind this marsupial The size of a small dog, with a broad head, thick tail and black hair, hides a large number of curiosities that make him an animal worth living between the platypus and the fish with his hands.

A species that protects itself

It is said that the demon of Tasmania was thus baptized by first European settlers, who compared him to a demon because of the terrifying screams which he emitted every night while hunting. Although in the past you could find throughout AustraliaCurrently there is only one wild population in the Tasmania Island, located in the south of the country. Even this population has declined a lot in the last two decades due to a curious contagious tumor, which affects your face and passes into the rest of the body until it causes death.

Was discovered in 1996 and it has since been estimated that it has ended with 80% of the demon population of Tasmania. It may end up extinguishing the species, were it not for, curiously, some of them have the capacity to resist disease, surviving the tumor, which finally heals, like a cold. This fact caught the attention of a team of University of Washington, which in 2016 published in Communications of the nature a study in which they described the investigations they were carrying out with these marsupials. Finally, this week a new publication by the same team looks at the genetic causes resistance.

Contagious tumors are especially rare. In fact, besides facial tumor which exterminates the demons of Tasmania, there is only proof of two others: a benign one, which affects puppies for saleand another similar to attacking leukemia clams and mussels. However, that humans do not suffer from this tumor does not mean that their study can not be beneficial to us. In fact, according to the researchers, some of the genes that appear to be involved in Australian devil tumor regression are common with humans, so that in the future its study can lead to the development of medicines that help fight cancer.

Milk to fight superbugs

Simply being able to provide key keys to understanding the mechanisms involved in tumor regression already makes this animal a very interesting species. But the thing does not stop there, since your milk It also has much to teach scientists.

Some peptides present in their milk have an interesting bactericidal

Specifically, it is very useful as a weapon in one of the bitterest struggles that human beings have had to fight throughout their history: the battle against superb bacteria. According to Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products, 3,000 people they die every year in Spain because of these bacteria, which over time have developed the ability to resist the attack of antibiotics. Therefore, it is vital to detect alternative methods to combat them, before the disaster is even greater. Many researchers focus on Bactericidal substances present in nature, often generated by plants and animals typical of the most secluded places in the world. And among them, of course, our friend could not lose the demon of Tasmania. This application of the marsupial was discovered in 2016 by a team of researchers from the University of Sydney, analyzing some peptides present in their milk.

As in the rest of the marsupials, the descendants of demon of Tasmania are born at a very early stage of development and their first days of lifein one case, within one bag located in the females' body. This means that, even with your unfinished immune system, are continuously exposed to possible external infections caused by bacteria or fungi. Therefore, it is very important that the milk your mother breastfeeds has a "secret ingredient" to help them fight. This power lies in the dairy peptides, which are sets of amino acids present in the milk of all mammals, with a very uneven distribution. In fact, human milk contains only one, while You can have up to six.

After checking your antimicrobial potentialThese Australian scientists were able to synthesize the peptides in the laboratory and test them on cultures of different bacteria. Specifically, they gave very good results Staphilococcus aureus multiresistant, the superbugeria par excellence, and also in Enterococcus vancomycin-resistant.

Of course, the Tasmanian devil is a great weirdoBut what would we humans do without them?

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