The platypus is now an iconic animal for its uniqueness. The scientists created a three-dimensional image, using X-ray crystallography and highly sophisticated equipment, which allowed them to discover a unique structure that resembles folds of curly hair.
Researchers reckon the platypus milk is so potent because they don’t have teats, meaning their milk is expressed on to their tummies for their young to suckle. A member of the monotreme family-one of the three main groups of living mammals-the platypus lays eggs and produces milk to feed their young.
That is why researchers believed platypus milk, as odd as it may seem, actually contains an unusual and protective protein. “Platypuses are such rare animals that it makes sense to think they have a rare biochemistry”, said study author Janet Newman, who is also a scientist at CSIRO, in the journal Structural Biology Communications.
The Team at CSIRO used the Synchrotron and CSIRO’s Collaborative Crystallisation Centre to successfully remake the protein and decipher exactly what was in its structure. Because of its ringlet-like formation, the team chose to name it “Shirley Temple”, after the child actor’s distinctive curly hair and, from a scientific perspective its existence teaches us a lot about protein structure.
As we learned from a CSIRO press statement, it was the first time a protein structure with such a fold has been found. “This special component has antibacterial properties against some of the nastier bugs you find in the environment but not against some bacteria found in the guts of the young”, Newman said.
“While we have identified that this highly unusual protein exists only in monotremes, this discovery increases our knowledge of the structure of proteins in general and will help in other discoveries about drugs in the center”, Sharp said. They are now on the lookout for collaborators to take the potentially life-saving research to the next stage.
A recent research updated about the protein in the milk of Platypus. In 2014 the World Health Organisation released a report highlighting the scale of the global threat posed by antibiotic resistance, pleading for urgent action to avoid a “post-antibiotic era”, where common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill.