Under threat from climate change and human activity, animals and plants are more useful than ever and continue to contribute to scientific discoveries, sometimes in unexpected ways.
“Nature has spent hundreds of millions of years optimizing elegant solutions to extremely complex problems. So if we look at it, we can buy time and find valid solutions immediately,” Alon Gorodetsky of the University of California told AFP.
From hot plates with squid skin to cow mucus to combat sexually transmitted viruses, this is a selection of scientific studies published in 2022 inspired by nature.
gombo to stop bleeding
Gumbo, a tropical plant used primarily in Creole or African cuisine, can do wonders in cooking and medicine.
This green vegetable with a gelatinous texture was studied in depth by Malcolm Xing of the University of Manitoba in Canada, and discovered that an effective bioadhesive gel can be made from its juice (squeezed, dried and then ground into powder ). Able to create a physical barrier and activate the blood coagulation process.
It can serve as the basis for a kind of natural “dressing” to quickly stop bleeding during surgical interventions.
Tested on heart and liver wounds in dogs and rabbits, the gel stopped bleeding in under a minute without the need for stitches.
It will be tested on humans in the next few years.
cow mucus against std
When you think of cow urine, your first reaction is disgust. But a study out in September suggests that a lubricant based on this substance may be effective in preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as HIV or herpes.
Mucus contains a protein called mucin that may have antiviral properties.
Scientists took it from the salivary glands of cows and turned it into a gel that can kill tiny viruses when they come in contact with them. Laboratory tests have shown that this lubricant can reduce the risk of HIV infection by 70% and herpes by 80%.
However, these studies are still in the early stages, the researchers cautioned, unlike condoms, whose efficacy has been more than demonstrated.
firefly robot for rescue mission
Fireflies lighting up the night sky have inspired scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to build tiny robots capable of emitting light while flying.
To do this, they equipped the robots with wings fitted with artificial muscles, called activators, to which electroluminescent particles had been added.
When robots are equipped with captors, they can autonomously intervene in rescue missions in collapsed buildings, reaching areas larger robots cannot reach.
Ants detect cancer
Cancer detection with current methods (magnetic resonance, mammogram…) is usually expensive and invasive.
For this reason, scientists are investigating animals, such as dogs, but also ants.
In a study by the Sorbonne University Paris Nord, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, scientists used a freshwater reward to smell the difference between the urine of mice with cancerous tumors and those with no cancerous tumors. used.
Hundred ants managed to detect ovarian cancer and two types of breast cancer in 95% of cases.
It takes at least six months to train a dog for this job. The ants are already in action in less than an hour.
squid skin to keep coffee warm
Marine cephalopods have tiny organs called chromatophores that are basically capable of changing shape or color. Inspired by this, Alon Gorodetsky, co-author of a study published in Nature Sustainability in March, “fabricated tiny metal islands that can be pushed out of the way” and shrunk to create packaging capable of controlling heat levels .
For example, it can be useful for keeping sandwiches or coffee warm.
“Nature really is the quintessence of innovation and engineering,” said the researcher.