Friday, March 12, 2010

The Benefits of Biodiversity: Even Bacteria Do Wonders for Humanity

It's not just charismatic megafauna like bears, wolves, lions and monkeys that should come to mind when you think about the wonders of biological diversity.  And it's beyond the beauty and healing power of plants.

According to this article from Science Daily, humans should be thanking even some types of bacteria for making our lives better, in this case by providing a possible cure for Alzheimer's Disease:
Rapamycin, a drug that keeps the immune system from attacking transplanted organs, may have another exciting use: fighting Alzheimer's disease. The drug  -- a bacterial product first isolated in soil from Easter Island -- rescued learning and memory deficits in a mouse model of Alzheimer's, a team from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio reported on Feb. 23.
The study, in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, offers the first evidence that the drug is able to reverse Alzheimer's-like deficits in an animal model, said the senior author, Salvatore Oddo, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Physiology of the UT Health Science Center San Antonio.
Could climate change and/or sea level rise threaten the existence of similar bacteria out there in remote locations?  Who knows.

This may be yet another instance of a highly isolated endemic species (one that occurs in only one place) that is discovered to be incredibly valuable to humanity.  How many such species -- that contain a compound found to cure a crippling diseases or otherwise provide a life-changing solution -- are on the verge of being lost forever due to rainforest destruction or other human environmental impacts?  The best way to not worry about that is for us to support and foster sustainability whenever we can -- both in the voting booth and when we vote with our wallets.

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