The Intersection

i-a243d4a9a5c4fb9ab99162a30fd940bc-Sea Cucumber.jpg

We already know everyone’s favorite echinoderm is a far-eastern delicacy, has purported aphrodisiac qualities, and is a real life shape shifter even J. K. Rowling couldn’t dream up… but according to an international team of scientists, the under appreciated sea cucumber may just be a veritable miracle worker to boot!

Not only are these critters up to regenerating our organs and bringing eyesight to the blind, now they’re potentially stopping the spread of malaria which might one day save millions of lives.

It’s like the second coming… errr, for holothurians.

From PLoS Pathogens:

Malaria is arguably the most important vector-borne disease worldwide, affecting 300 million people and killing 1-2 million people every year. The lack of an effective vaccine and the emergence of the parasites’ resistance to many existing anti-malarial drugs have aggravated the situation. Clearly, development of novel strategies for control of the disease is urgently needed. Mosquitoes are obligatory vectors for the disease and inhibition of parasite development in the mosquito has considerable promise as a new approach in the fight against malaria. Based on recent advances in the genetic engineering of mosquitoes, the concept of generating genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes that hinder transmission by either killing or interfering with parasite development is a potential means of controlling the disease. To generate these GM mosquitoes, the authors focused on a unique lectin isolated from the sea cucumber, which has both hemolytic and cytotoxic activities, as an anti-parasite effector molecule. A transgenic mosquito expressing the lectin effectively caused erythrocyte lysis in the midgut after ingestion of an infectious blood meal and severely impaired parasite development. This laboratory-acquired finding may provide significant implications for future malaria control using GM mosquitoes refractory to the parasites.

Yet another reason to marvel at the ever charismatic cuke–and I couldn’t be prouder of the little guys!


  1. #1 Coturnix
    December 21, 2007

    Hey, you never showed us that PDF on the last link – it is cool! Sea cucumbers rock! Just you wait another year or two and it will overshadow even the sacred Cephalopods!

  2. #2 _Arthur
    December 21, 2007

    What are the Intelligent Design predictions about malaria, anopheles mosquitoes and sea cucumbers ?

    You wisely predict that if it takes more than 2 point mutations for the plasmodium parasite to adapt to the lectin, it would take 1 million years to do so, and when the parasite does adapt within 5 years, with 4 point mutations, you claim it is a MIRACLE, a direct intervention of Designer-Guy ?

    Some science.

  3. #3 Philip H
    December 21, 2007

    _Arthur, you seem to have misplaced both your Christmas Spirit an dyour sense of wonder ta the natural world. Miracles can be justly claimed by scientists when natural systems, including organisms, do things far faster, in more unique ways, or to an unforseen endpoint that science and its statistics just couldn’t predict. What Sheril is talking about is an occurence at the very end of the error bar that bounds the confidence interval. That nature would choose that pathway is miraculous – whether the miracle is God-driven or statistically driven is besid ethe point.

    Merry Christmas.

  4. #4 Jennifer L. Jacquet
    December 22, 2007

    When I saw the article in PLoS, I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist!

  5. #5 Macnerdzcare
    December 23, 2007

    sea cucumbers looks cute too 🙂

  6. #6 raj
    December 25, 2007

    You’re a drummer?

    You’re in good company. Richard Feynman was a drummer, too. As well as a science popularizer, and a Nobel Prize recipient. Best wishes, and here’s hoping that maybe you can be an NP recipient, too.

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